The Columbus North girls basketball team thought it had another easy win in store Thursday night as the Bull Dogs built a 22-point lead midway through the third quarter.
Southport did not let that happen.
The Cardinals went on a 16-3 run between the end of the third quarter and fourth quarter to cut the lead into single digits. Fortunately for the Bull Dogs, they built a big enough lead as Southport fell short in its comeback bid in a 63-52 North victory in Conference Indiana action.
A key moment in the game came when the Cardinals (10-6, 3-1) cut the lead to 51-42 with about 5:30 left in regulation. Bull Dogs senior Maliah Howard-Bass came through in a huge way to bury a 3-pointer from the lefthand side that really slowed the momentum that Southport had built.
“I’ve been struggling a bit with my shot lately, but I’ve been getting extra time in the gym just getting a more fluid motion,” said Howard-Bass, who finished with a game-high 22 points. “It gave us more momentum stopping their run, and that is some key things we need to take away from this game is knowing when we need to score and when we have to score.”
Coming into the game, North coach Pat McKee knew it would not be a cakewalk.
“We felt Southport was a strong, quality team,” he said. “They have that girl (Jaelencia Williams) inside and (Emma) DeHart, who is a really good shooter. They have other girls that can hit open shots and it was going to be a hard game. The fact we had a big early lead was surprising because I thought they were better than that. In the second half, we saw that they were better than that and we lost a bit of focus and we have to break that trend.”
The Bull Dogs (12-4, 4-0) fed the ball in the post to Imani Guy early on. She was effective and she scored seven early points. Jenna Borger had her best game since the opening game of the season as she hit two big 3-pointers to give North a 19-8 lead.
Guy finished with 17 points and Borger added 10.
“In the first half, we were sharing the ball really well,” Borger said. “The flow of the game influences how I play. So if I start making, then I start making more and shooting the ball better.”
Howard-Bass was scoreless in the first quarter but that changed in a hurry in the second as she scored North’s first 10 points on four straight shots to extend the lead to 29-11. The Bull Dogs finished the half leading 37-17.
“Maliah is a terrific player and she has been in a shooting slump,” McKee said. “Tonight she started a little slow. She got a rebound basket and then from there on, the one that went in relaxed her.”