Columbus North’s seventh consecutive Conference Indiana girls basketball title didn’t come as easy as it looked like it would just before halftime Saturday.
The Bull Dogs were cruising along with a 25-6 lead against Bloomington South with 1:15 left in the first half. The Panthers got to within one and had a chance to tie or win in the closing seconds, but North held on for a 36-32 victory.
The win puts the Bull Dogs at 15-4 overall and 6-0 in the conference, clinching at least a share of the crown. They can wrap up the outright title with a win Friday at Bloomington North.
“It’s an awesome achievement to win conference all four years we’ve been here,” said Jenna Borger, whose rebound and two free throws with three seconds remaining iced the victory. “We like carrying on the tradition.”
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The Bull Dogs looked like they were headed for a blowout after they scored the game’s first 12 points. The Panthers (9-9, 3-2) cut the lead to 12-6 at the end of the first quarter, but North scored the first 13 points of the second quarter to take a 25-6 lead.
Bloomington South scored the final five points of the first half to spark a 14-1 run that brought it to within 26-20. The Bull Dogs scored the final three points of the third quarter, but the Panthers scored the first six of the fourth to cut it to 29-26 with 3:55 remaining.
“We did a lot of good things,” North coach Pat McKee said. “We just have to finish. If we finish some shots, we extend the lead, and the dynamic of that game changes, but instead, we missed a few shots and they hit a couple and crept back.”
North pushed the lead back to 33-26, but Bloomington South cut it to 33-30 and had the ball. Annie Anderson came up with a steal for the Bull Dogs, and after a miss on the offensive end, Borger blocked a 3-point attempt by Addisyn Blackwell with 1:10 remaining. But the Panthers’ Cameron Gillard scored to cut the lead to 33-32 with 39 seconds left.
Bloomington South immediately fouled, and Nadia Lomax made the first of two free throws with 36 seconds remaining to make it a two-point game. The Panthers held the ball until calling timeout with 11 seconds left. Clara Voskuil missed a 10-footer, and Borger rebounded and hit two free throws with 3.9 seconds remaining.
Borger and Kenzie Patberg each finished with 10 points to lead North. That duo also was mainly responsible for holding Blackwell to 5-of-16 shooting from the field and 14 points. The 5-foot-6 Patberg guarded her most of the game before the 5-10 Borger switched to Blackwell late in the contest.
“She’s a great player, and we just had to lock down defensively on her,” Patberg said.
Bloomington South outrebounded the Bull Dogs 24-20. Tessa Lomax led North with seven rebounds.
The Bull Dogs shot only 2 of 11 from the field and 7 of 15 from the free-throw line in the second half. But they limited the Panthers to 4-of-15 shooting from the field in the first half and forced 13 turnovers in the first 16 minutes.
“Defense, I thought was really good in the first half and very good in the second half, too,” McKee said. “I can’t be disappointed because we won the game, and it was an important game in the conference.”