North seniors led title chase

There were games earlier in the season when the Columbus North girls basketball team fell behind by eight or 10 points and folded.

That certainly was not the case in the Bull Dogs’ final three postseason games.

North showed a great sense of maturity in its ability to rally from seven-point first-half deficits to beat Evansville Central and Bedford North Lawrence in the regional. Then the Bull Dogs battled back from a 12-point first-half deficit against Pike in Saturday’s semistate, only to fall 52-49.

Much of the credit for getting this team to the point where it could compete with the top teams in the state has to go to the three seniors. North certainly will have to replace not only the on-court production, but the leadership of Maliah Howard-Bass, Ashlyn Huffman and Imani Guy.

During the four-year careers of Howard-Bass and Guy, the Bull Dogs went 99-14. During that span, they won four sectional titles, three regionals, two semistates and one Class 4A state championship. Huffman transferred from Franklin Central after her sophomore year.

Not surprisingly, the trio’s names are splattered all over North’s record books.

Howard-Bass will graduate as the school’s second all-time leading scorer (1,409) and is tied for second all-time in steals (272). She also ranks second and third with her single-season point totals of 540 last year and 491 this season. Her 54 3-pointers this year are tied for second on the single-season list, and her 140 3s ranks third on the career list.

Although blocked shots records were not kept until recently, Guy is believed to hold those marks. The 6-foot-4 post player also ranks sixth all-time in rebounds (568) and 11th on the single-season rebound list with 196 as a senior.

And even though she was only there for two years, Huffman was the glue that held last year’s and this year’s teams together. She battled back from two ACL surgeries and a meniscus tear while at North, and was a stabilizing force at the point. Last week, she was named Academic All-State.

The three seniors — all of whom were Indiana Junior All-Stars last season — have plans to play college basketball. Howard-Bass is headed to Ball State, while Guy and Huffman are headed to Division II schools Southern Indiana and Cedarville (Ohio), respectively.

The Bull Dogs won’t be completely without talent and experience next year.

Junior Kenzie Patberg and freshman Tessa Lomax were starters this year, and junior Jenna Borger was a 3-point machine off the bench. Juniors Liz Tynan and Jahna Smiley and sophomore Nadia Lomax also played prominent roles off the bench.

With juniors Kat Norman and Kelsey Patberg coming back from ACL injuries and the emergence of a strong freshman class led by Annie Anderson and Chelsi Giesige, North could continue the run of success it has enjoyed the past seven years under coach Pat McKee.

But there’s no doubt the Bull Dogs will miss their three departing seniors.

Ted Schultz is the sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.