WHITELAND — For almost 25 minutes on Tuesday evening, the Whiteland girls basketball team was able to take every punch that Class 4A No. 1 Columbus North threw, countering each jab with one of its own.
In the final quarter, however, the Bull Dogs were able to land the knockout blow, pulling away late for a 52-37 victory over the scrappy Warriors.
Columbus North (21-1) led the entire way after erasing Whiteland’s initial 3-0 edge with 15 consecutive points, but it was hardly a walk in the park. The Warriors (12-9) never let the game get away from them, using some timely 3-point baskets to keep the deficit within single digits for most of the night.
“I just think that we need to bring more energy toward the beginning of the game, even if we’re not hitting shots,” North junior Maliah Howard-Bass said.
Each time the Bull Dogs stretched their lead to 10 points or more during the first three quarters, Whiteland answered with a 3-pointer on its very next possession. A trey from Sydney Mize to open the fourth quarter got the Warriors within four at 34-30, but Columbus North had the last word, responding with a 14-2 run put the game away.
“Our girls knocked down some big shots at times and just couldn’t get over that hump,” Whiteland coach Kyle Shipp said. “I’m really proud of our effort and looking forward to the end of the season and going into the tournament with some momentum.”
Howard-Bass was the main driving force offensively, leading all scorers with 24 points. Ashlyn Huffman added 11 and Imani Guy finished with nine off the bench, including six in the first quarter to key North’s early 15-0 blitz.
Whiteland also was able to stay within striking distance in part because Columbus North failed to cash in on its opportunities from the foul line. The Bull Dogs missed all seven of their free throws in the second quarter, missing 10 straight at one point and finishing the night just 2 of 12 from the line.
“The team that makes layups and free throws wins,” Howard-Bass said. “We just need to focus at the line more and just take our time and not rush it.”
Ashley West led a balanced Warriors effort with eight points, while Mackenzie Blazek and Kate White added seven apiece.
Paige Littrell hit a pair of 3-pointers during the Bull Dogs’ closing run, pushing her career total to 145 makes from long range. That broke the old Columbus North record of 144 held by Tayler Goddard.
“I knew I was somewhere in the range, but I didn’t know I was within five or anything,” Littrell said. “I didn’t know until after the game.”
North wraps up the regular season Thursday night with a home game against Roncalli.