Opening slump sinks Bull Dogs

When his Columbus North boys basketball was struggling early in the season, coach Paul Ferguson preached the importance of playing hard for 32 minutes every time out.

On Tuesday night, the Bull Dogs came up a few minutes shy of 32, and the few brief lapses proved costly in a 66-61 defeat against Franklin.

The tone was set in the opening three and a half minutes, when the Grizzly Cubs (12-5) were able to take advantage of some North mistakes and score the game’s first eight points. Andrew Hartkorn was able to work underneath for a pair of reverse layups, two of several he had while racking up a game-high 22 points.

The Bull Dogs (6-12) showed some grit when the game threatened to get away from them, using their own 8-0 run early in the second quarter to wipe away most of an 18-7 deficit. But after briefly creeping to within two with 3:03 left in the first half, North gave up a Cameron Smith 3-pointer at the other end and never got as close again.

After committing just 11 turnovers all day in Saturday’s victory against East Central, Columbus North gave the ball away nine times in the first half alone on Tuesday. The Bull Dogs coughed it up just three more times after halftime, but they were unable to stop the Grizzly Cubs from getting easy buckets underneath. Franklin shot 56 percent (22 for 39) from the field overall and 61 percent (11 of 21) in the second half.

A three-point play by Alex King put North back in striking distance, 44-38, in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, but Hartkorn answered with another baseline reverse, and a technical foul on the Bull Dogs shortly thereafter helped Franklin rebuild a double-digit edge at 57-44.

“We had some really good moments in this game,” Ferguson said. “Unfortunately, we’re not a disciplined enough team to win that type of game yet. … (Franklin) had the type of discipline throughout the game that we lacked at key moments of the game.”

Columbus North put forth one last rally, fueled by some aggressive defense off the bench from Mitchell Kelley, Alex Algee and J.D. Harris, but it could not draw closer than the final margin.

Smith finished with 16 points for the Grizzly Cubs, while Jarrett Bertsch added 14, including five foul shots in the fourth quarter that helped keep the Bull Dogs at arm’s length.

Jaylen Flemmons led Columbus North with 17 points, while King contributed 13 points and a team-best seven rebounds. Kelley scored all 10 of his points in the second half, including eight in the fourth quarter.

Columbus North hosts Bloomington South in Conference Indiana action on Friday night. Franklin, meanwhile, will be back in town to face Columbus East on Saturday.

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2715.