FRANKLIN — The final minutes quickly turned into a free-throw exhibition and enabled Columbus North’s boys basketball team to walk out of Franklin with a 59-46 victory Tuesday night.
But before the whistles became the dominant sound down the stretch, fans were treated to a hard-nosed effort from all of the involved parties.
That effort bore no fruit for the host Grizzly Cubs, however, who watched as the Bull Dogs scored 19 of their 23 fourth-quarter points at the foul line to pull away.
“It’s been eight in a row for us,” North coach Paul Ferguson said. “We’re playing well, but we didn’t play our best game tonight. We’re capable of playing much better than this, and we’re going to have to.”
Down 18-16 at the end of a back-and-forth first quarter, the Bull Dogs (13-6) pulled ahead 23-20 early in the second on an Alex King 3-pointer and a steal and layup by Zach Green. The Grizzly Cubs (11-6) answered by scoring seven consecutive points and holding North scoreless for five minutes before a King basket with 59 seconds left Franklin with a 27-25 edge at the break.
North quickly snatched the momentum coming out of the locker room, scoring the first nine points of the third quarter to take a 34-27 lead. Franklin again had a response, though, outscoring the Bull Dogs 10-2 over the final 4:15 of the period and reclaiming the upper hand, 37-36, on a buzzer-beating corner 3 by Reece Thomson.
A three-point play by Green broke a tie with 5:38 to go in the fourth and gave North a 44-41 lead. A driving layup by Drew Byerly got the Grizzly Cubs back within one, but the Bull Dogs hit a couple of free throws and Stephon Peters-Smith scored off a King steal to stretch it to 48-43.
King made two more from the line with 2:47 left, and he added four more when the Franklin bench was whistled for a pair of technical fouls 11 seconds later, effectively putting the game out of reach at 54-43.
King finished with a game-high 27 points for North after making 11 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter, and Green added 18 points, eight of them coming from the charity stripe. The Bull Dogs were 25 of 35 from the line overall, hitting 19 of 26 in the final eight minutes.
“Second half, we started on a good jump right there, got some momentum and then were able to close it out in the fourth quarter,” Ferguson said.