For much of the season, these were the types of games that had been getting away from the Columbus North boys basketball team.
The Bull Dogs had put together three solid quarters before only to watch victory slip away in the waning moments, but on Saturday afternoon they kept their composure throughout to earn a 64-58 victory against East Central.
North (6-11) shot 57 percent from the field and hit 7 of 14 3-pointers. With shots falling early, the team was able to build enough confidence to last throughout.
“When the first shot goes down, or we get an inside touch and they score, we know we can do that the whole game,” said sophomore point guard Trey Vincent, one of five Bull Dogs in double figures with his 15 points.
The Trojans made several efforts to charge back in the second half, but the Bull Dogs had an answer each time.
Down by six at the half, East Central (8-8) crept to within two, 38-36, midway through the third quarter before Vincent canned a 3-pointer at the other end. Putbacks by Alex King and Ethan Mitchell, the latter at the third-period buzzer, gave North a 48-40 edge, and a driving Vincent layup with 7:28 left pushed the lead up to 11 points.
York McCory, who scored a game-high 20 points for the Trojans, followed a basket with a steal and a three-point play to cut it to 57-53 with about four minutes to go. Vincent came up big again, however, hitting his third 3-pointer at the other end, and the Bull Dogs were able to make enough foul shots down the stretch to hold on.
Minus starting point guard Nathan VanDeventer, who sat out with a sprained ankle, North executed well on the offensive end, assisting on 17 of their 24 made field goals. The Bull Dogs shot 57 percent from the field and committed just 11 turnovers.
“I loved our ball movement,” North coach Paul Ferguson said. “I thought we had real good execution until just the last couple of minutes of the fourth quarter.”
Columbus North also dominated down low, outrebounding the Trojans 31-22. King, who matched Vincent’s 15 points, led the way inside with 12 boards and three blocked shots.
“We were feeding the bigs,” Vincent said. “That team wasn’t very big, and we knew we had to feed them — and they finished for us.”
Sophomore guard Jaylen Flemmons was the fifth North starter in double digits with 11 points.
Down 19-18 after a pair of 3- pointers from East Central’s Brady Ewing early in the second quarter, the Bull Dogs answered with a 7-0 spurt, building a six-point edge that they were able to maintain for the rest of the day.
Now 5-4 since the first of the year, North looks like a completely different team than the one that lost seven games in a row before the holidays.
The Bull Dogs feel different these days, too.
“When our bigs can finish and we shoot well, it gives us a lot of confidence going forward,” Vincent said.