ST. LEON — The Columbus North boys basketball team had its coming-of-age moment Tuesday night in a thrilling victory against bitter rival Columbus East.
On Friday, it was Shelbyville’s turn.
In a battle of young teams playing their best basketball at the right time, it was the Golden Bears who got a season-defining victory in the semifinals of the Class 4A East Central Sectional, ending the Bull Dogs’ season with a 55-52 overtime victory.
Columbus North finishes the year with a 10-14 record.
“This was a great experience for our team, playing in this game,” North coach Paul Ferguson said. “When you don’t get what you want, you get experience, and this is something we can build on for next year.”
The Bull Dogs led by as many as five in the fourth quarter of a back-and-forth affair before Shelbyville (9-14) started clawing back. Cooper Lewis’ fifth 3-pointer of the night brought the Bears back to within a pair, 46-44, at the 4:47 mark. A couple of Jaylen Flemmons baskets put North in front, 50-46, with three minutes left before buckets at the other end forced overtime.
Flemmons, who scored 15 of his game-high 19 points after halftime, tied the game at 52-52 early in the extra session, but the Bull Dogs did not make another shot from the field in the final two-plus minutes of play. John Lux gave the Bears the lead for good on a free throw with 1:47 to go, and Jade Amos added pair of foul shots with 41 seconds remaining.
Columbus North had one final chance to keep its season alive, but a contested 3-pointer from Nathan VanDeventer before the final horn was slightly off the mark.
The Bull Dogs began the evening by taking advantage of their superior size, scoring the game’s first six points in the paint and dominating the glass en route to an early 18-5 cushion.
Cooper Lewis shifted the momentum with a pair of 3-pointers, one just before the first-period buzzer and another to open the second, and the Bears rode the wave for the rest of the half. Three unanswered 3-pointers heading into the intermission — two by Cooper Lewis and one from Sam Lewis in the closing seconds — capped a 26-6 blitz that sent Shelbyville into the locker room with an improbable 31-24 lead.
The Bull Dogs tightened the defensive screws at halftime and got back to attacking the basket on the offensive end, methodically erasing the Bears’ edge and reclaiming the upper hand with a 12-2 surge. North was up, 38-37, going into the fourth quarter.
Alex King had 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Bull Dogs, while Flemmons added eight boards. Cooper Lewis and Sam Lewis had 16 and 12 points, respectively, for Shelbyville, which will face Bloomington South for the sectional title tonight.
For North, title dreams will have to wait a year — but with many of its top players returning, the team is excited about the momentum it’s taking into the offseason.
“We definitely have gotten a lot better, an extreme improvement from the beginning of the season,” King said. “But yeah, I think next year we’re going to be a great team, because we have so many people coming back.”