RICHMOND — Assistant coach Ron Patberg made a bold proclamation at last year’s postseason banquet celebrating Columbus North’s first girls basketball state championship.
The Bull Dogs were going to do it again.
At the time, it might have seemed like a reach to some, especially with All-American Ali Patberg graduating.
But Ron Patberg, Ali’s father, said he believed it — and eventually, the returning players did, too.
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On Saturday afternoon, they made him look like a prophet, defeating Indianapolis Roncalli 55-48 to win the Class 4A Richmond Semistate.
Following the victory, senior Paige Littrell remembered that banquet prediction planting the seeds of confidence in the North players’ minds.
“All of us were thinking, ‘Oh, we’re losing Ali’ and everything,” Littrell said. “But for him to say that? We had all the faith this entire year that we were going to do it again — and we’re going back.”
Littrell played a big part in the win, opening the game with a 3-pointer on the way to a 14-point day. She also helped shoulder a great deal of the ball-handling duties with point guard Ashlyn Huffman sidelined by a torn meniscus.
Fellow senior Emily Kim also picked up the slack in Huffman’s absence, dishing out seven assists. She also put North back ahead, 10-9, with two free throws with 1:55 remaining in the first quarter after the Rebels had briefly taken a one-point lead. Aside from a 21-21 tie toward the end of the first half, North would lead the rest of the game.
Maliah Howard-Bass scored seven of her team-high 18 points in the fourth quarter to help the Bull Dogs (27-1) hold off a late charge, but North got contributions from just about everybody Saturday.
Junior center Imani Guy dominated the paint, grabbing almost as many rebounds (14) as Roncalli totaled as a team (18). Freshman Nadia Lomax scored six points off the bench, and sophomore guard Kenzie Patberg, who has seldom played crunch-time minutes this season, contributed nearly 12 minutes of solid backcourt play.
It was the girls, Ron Patberg insists, that made his bold forecast an easy one to make.
“I believe in these kids,” he said. “We say it a lot, but we have great kids. Kids that work hard, it means something to them, and they’re passionate.
“You’ve seen them the last two weekends. They just don’t give up.”
And as a result, they’re headed back to Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Class 4A girls state championship game
Columbus North (27-1) vs. Penn or Homestead (winner of that 7 p.m. Saturday game will be 27-2)
8:15 p.m. Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis