Fast start sends Bull Dogs past Pioneers

Coming off back-to-back blowout wins, Columbus North looked to be headed for a third consecutive easy win the way it shot the ball the first three quarters.

Mooresville made things interesting in the final quarter, cutting an 18-point deficit to six, but the Bull Dogs held on for a 66-58 victory Wednesday.

“We didn’t have a great last four minutes there,” North coach Paul Ferguson said. “We had a couple turnovers I’d like to have back. We have some things to learn from and build on there.”

The Bull Dogs (8-6) shot well early. They went 8 of 10 from the field, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range, in the first quarter to take a 21-12 lead.

North trailed 7-6 midway through the first period when it went on a 13-0 run, bookended by 3-pointers from Bailey Hester.

The Bull Dogs extended the lead to 38-27 at halftime. North went 8 of 11 from 3-point range in the first 16 minutes.

Freshman Blake Barker, who scored 11 points in the first half, added eight in the third quarter to help the Bull Dogs increase the lead to 52-34.

The Pioneers (6-8) came back to within 59-53 with 1:34 left in the game. They again cut it the lead to 64-58 with 27 seconds left, but a pair of free throws from North’s Jaylen Flemmons iced it.

The Bull Dogs finished 10 of 17 from 3-point range for the game. Barker went 5 of 6 from long range on his way to a team-high 21 points.

“My teammates were the ones that made that happen because they dished it to me in the right spot,” Barker said. “I think we’re playing super unselfish. Our chemistry is really good right now, and everything is coming along really smoothly. Everything is looking up from here.”

Trey Vincent added 15 points for North. Flemmons grabbed six rebounds and Barker five to lead the Bull Dogs to a 22-19 advantage on the boards.

Trenton Kelley had six assists for North, which had 14 assists on their 20 made baskets.

“We had a great start,” Ferguson said. “I thought we were very unselfish. We moved the ball very well, so I was pleased with the effort and execution. I think we’re coming together. We’ve made some good strides the past two weeks.”

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