Alex King fouled out, Trey Vincent was cramping up and Nathan VanDeventer was having an off night.
But with its top three players on the bench for large chunks of the second half, the Columbus North boys basketball team managed to hold it together. Thanks to a fast start, the Bull Dogs posted a 57-47 victory against Class 4A No. 12 Hamilton Southeastern.
“I think that was the best game we’ve played this year,” said North junior Troy Vincent, who led all scorers with 16 points. “That was a very good team, and we handed it to them early and just stayed on them. It gives us a lot of confidence.”
With VanDeventer and King out of the game, Vincent had to run the point for part of the second half. That was when he wasn’t laying on his back on the sidelines having his leg stretched to remove the cramping in his right calf.
With the Bull Dogs (11-6) clinging to a 49-45 lead in the final 2 1/2 minutes, Bailey Hester converted a one-and-one, and Jaylen Flemmons hit four consecutive free throws to ice it. Stephon Peters-Smith capped the game with a tomahawk dunk in the closing seconds.
“We had some bench guys really step up tonight and give us some valuable minutes,” North coach Paul Ferguson said. “Bailey Hester came in and handled pressure really well. Jaylen Flemmons got the start tonight and made some plays down the stretch.”
North led 15-12 early in the second quarter when 3-pointers by King and Vincent ignited a 10-0 run that made it 25-12 with 3:38 left in the first half. The Bull Dogs led 29-19 at halftime.
The Royals (14-4) cut the lead to 39-34 after three quarters, then began the fourth period on an 8-2 run to take a 42-41 lead. But a 3-pointer by Vincent gave North the lead for good, and Zach Green followed with another 3, the the Bull Dogs held on by going 6 of 6 from the free-throw line in the closing minutes.
North held Hamilton Southeastern 30 points below its 77-point-per-game average coming in. The Bull Dogs held Zach Gunn, who has multiple Division-I offers, to 14 points.
“We played a tremendous game from start to finish,” Ferguson said. “I thought our start was especially strong. I think our defensive intensity may have surprised them a little bit.”
King finished with 11 points and six rebounds for North, which outrebounded the Royals 28-24.