BY ROB DEWEESE
For The Republic
As soon as the lights were turned back on in Memorial Gymnasium at Columbus North after the starting lineups were announced, the Bull Dogs started scoring.
They scored by way of layups, midrange jump shots, and long range. They scored off turnovers, off fast break opportunities, and in half-court sets. And before the visiting Perry Meridian knew what hit it, North had 12-0 lead halfway through the first period on its way to a 66-40 Conference Indiana win.
An alley-oop dunk by Patrick McKinley off of a feed from Lakeevan Whedon gave the Bull Dogs a 21-5 lead and punctuated the opening quarter in which North did very little wrong.
North coach Paul Ferguson was pleased with the way his Bull Dogs began the game.
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“We got off to a great start in the first quarter,” Ferguson said. “We were efficient. We moved the ball to the right spot. We were unselfish. And we hit some shots.”
It also helped the North cause that it played very well defensively. The Bull Dogs (7-6, 2-2) forced the Falcons (2-10, 1-3) into 10 first quarter turnovers and 13 for the first half. Being aggressive defensively was part of Ferguson’s game plan coming in.
“We knew that they were young and had a freshman point guard. We were able to get some tips and deflections and rattled them a bit. We got them to play back on their heels,” Ferguson stated.
North’s dominance continued into the second quarter, when it stretched the lead to 31-9 on a Trenton Kelly floater in the lane. Following a Falcon 3-pointer by Gabe Patterson, the Bull Dogs’ Bailey Hester answered with a 3 of his own with a minute remaining in the half.
Patterson nailed another shot from behind the arc for the Falcons, but a Ross Gill layup for extended North’s lead back to 36-15 going into the break.
Not only were the Bull Dogs efficient in the first half, they played very unselfishly and spread the scoring around. Kelly and Hester had eight points before the break, and Whedon had seven.
Ferguson liked what he saw in terms of the unselfishness. “There were a number of times that we passed up a good shot to get a great shot,” he said. “We had 18 assists on 27 makes, which is really good.”
Coming out for the second half, the only thing North had to guard against was a lack of intensity due to their large lead. Ferguson made it a point to address his team against exactly that at halftime.
“We talked about what the other team’s motivation would be. They want to finish the second half strongly. I let our guys know that there shouldn’t be a letdown,” Ferguson said.
Any concern that there may be a letdown after halftime was quickly erased. Although Perry Meridain cut the lead to 16 with 3:14 left in the third quarter, that was as close as they would ultimately get. Bull Dog freshman Blake Barker personally made sure of that.
After scoring three points in the first half, Barker came out of the locker room on fire in the third quarter. His back-to-back 3-point shots extended North’s lead back to 49-27 with 2 minutes left in the quarter. In all, Barker scored 11 of his game-high 19 points in the period.
Ferguson is enjoying the growth that Barker is showing in his freshman season.
“We knew that he was a good shooter. But he’s starting to help us in other ways too. He had two offensive rebounds today. He’s starting to drive the lane and kick passes out to shooters. His growth is exciting to see,” Ferguson said.
North was able to maintain its intensity for the remainder of the game and extended its lead in the fourth quarter. A Barker 3-point play increased the lead to 61-36 with 4:20 remaining.
With the game well in hand at that point, Ferguson put in five new players to finish the game. The Bull Dogs’ Matt Boldrey hit a free throw with 15 seconds remaining to give them their largest lead of the game at the final buzzer.