In assessing the possibilities for this year’s Columbus North girls basketball team, Pat McKee doesn’t look at his 2014-15 state championship squad or the 2015-16 state runner-up unit or even last year’s semistate finalist.
Instead, McKee looks back to 2011-12, his second year with the program. That year, the Bull Dogs started 4-3 before winning 19 in a row to reach the Class 4A state finals.
“I hope that we can ultimately have the success of say the 2011-12 season, when we really had limited size, but came together and played at a really high level, and we were really good,” McKee said. “I don’t want to put that level on this team and say they’re expected to do that, but I think there’s enough talent here to possibly do that. The potential is there to be very good, but it may not be immediate. We may have to go through some process to get there.”
That’s because North lost three seniors who are now playing college basketball. Indiana All-Star Maliah Howard-Bass, the school’s second all-time leading scorer, is at Ball State, while leading rebounder Imani Guy is at Southern Indiana and Ashlyn Huffman is at Cedarville (Ohio).
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Back to run the point for the Bull Dogs is 5-foot-6 senior Kenzie Patberg. She averaged 4.8 points and 3.2 rebounds and led North with 2.6 assists a game in earning honorable mention All-Conference Indiana honors.
The other returning starter is 5-11 sophomore post player Tessa Lomax. She averaged 4.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals as a freshman.
Jenna Borger, a 5-10 senior, averaged 5.2 points and 2.7 rebounds as the sixth player last season and is the leading returning scorer. Nadia Lomax (3.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg), a 5-10 junior, and 5-9 senior Liz Tynan (2.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg) also played big minutes last year.
Two sophomore guards who saw a little varsity action last season figure to make big contributions. The 5-6 Annie Anderson and 5-7 Chelsi Giesege (1.4 ppg) provide plenty of quickness.
“We’re a work in progress,” McKee said. “I think if we do what I think we can do, we can be very good. But it’s going to take work to get there, and it’s going to take kids playing hard all the time. Our margin for error is reduced.”
Two other players who have battled ACL injuries could figure into the rotation. Kelsey Patberg, a 5-7 senior, is back after missing all of last season, and 6-0 senior Kat Norman (1.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg) could be ready by December after tearing an ACL in the summer for the second year in a row.
Stepping into the backup point guard role will be 5-7 freshman Alexa McKinley.
“It’s not like there’s some superstar here,” McKee said. “We have 10 good players who I think can all contribute. We may be subbing frequently and try to keep the tempo and energy level really high.”
Two other players — 5-8 sophomores Sierra Norman and Kaylyn Bates — dressed varsity last year and likely will split time between varsity and JV this season.
The Bull Dogs went 21-8 and tied for the Conference Indiana championship last season. They won their sixth consecutive sectional and their third straight regional title before falling to Pike 52-49 in the semistate.
North will visit Brownstown Central for a scrimmage at 6 p.m. today. The Bull Dogs open the regular season at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7 at New Albany before hosting Martinsville on Nov. 10.
“A lot of our focus is on the end,” McKee said. “Our job right now is to just get better every day. I think we can put it together and be good when it counts.”
The 2017-18 Columbus North girls basketball schedule:
Nov. 7;at New Albany;7:30 p.m.
Nov. 10;Martinsville;7:30 p.m.
Nov. 14;at Southport;7:30 p.m.
Nov. 17;at Franklin Central;7:30 p.m.
Nov. 25;at Lawrence North;1:30 p.m.
Dec. 2;Terre Haute South;2:30 p.m.
Dec. 5;at Greenwood;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 7;at East Central;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 12;Seymour;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 14;Columbus East;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 19;Indianapolis Attucks;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 21;at Terre Haute North;2:30 p.m.
Dec. 28;Columbus North Tournament;6 p.m.
Dec. 29;Columbus North Tournament;TBA
Jan. 2;Jennings County;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 6;Perry Meridian;2:30 p.m.
Jan. 9;Franklin;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 13;Bloomington South;2:30 p.m.
Jan. 17;at Zionsville;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 19;at Bloomington North;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 23;at Whiteland;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 25;Roncalli;7:30 p.m.