INDIANAPOLIS — Columbus North coach Paul Ferguson and senior Bailey Hester took a walk around the Columbus North concourse before Friday’s boys basketball game at Southport, and that one-on-one talk turned into 20 points for the point guard.
Hester shot eight of 12 from the field and opened with a seven-point first quarter to help jumpstart the Bull Dogs on their way to a 72-66 Conference Indiana victory and extend their winning streak to four games.
“Halfway through the game, I pulled him aside and said, ‘We need to do this walk more often. This is the best game you’ve ever played in a Bull Dog uniform.’” North coach Paul Ferguson said. “He was phenomenal tonight.”
Hester continued to play well for the remainder of the game including a three-point play with 1:48 left to play that put North up by five points after the Cardinals had cut the lead to two.
Southport (3-10, 2-3) didn’t let the Bull Dogs (9-6, 3-2) get any kind of separation in the first half, which featured five lead changes and two ties. North managed to hold on to a 34-30 lead at halftime before creating some separation to start the third quarter.
The Bull Dogs began the second half with a 9-3 run to push their lead to 10, but the Cardinals came battling back with a 6-0 run of its own to cut the lead to 43-39. Brevin Jefferson, who ended with 31 points, kept Southport alive by scoring 19 second-half points.
The teams traded buckets to end the third quarter and the Bull Dogs kept a six-point lead heading into the final period. The Cardinals leaned on Jefferson and refused to go away in fourth by responding to North whenever it looked as if they were going to run away with the game.
The Bull Dogs led by as many as seven points in the final eight minutes, but Southport pulled within two with 2:27 left. Some solid execution and free-throw shooting down the stretch helped North pull out the win.
Ferguson said his team didn’t do a good job of keeping the lead in Wednesday’s win against Mooresville, but it was good preparation for Southport.
“We had really good film session on Thursday reviewing some of the mistakes we made against pressure, and then we came out and just executed to perfection what we wanted to do against (Southport’s) pressure,” Ferguson said. “We handled it really well.”
North shared the ball at a high level, finishing with 19 assists on 25 made baskets. Trey Vincent led the team with seven assists.
Blake Barker helped turn some of those dishes to 13 points and Jaylen Flemmons added 11. Trenton Kelley finished with nine rebounds to go with his eight points.
“I thought we executed out scouting report perfectly,” Hester said. “I don’t think we could have played any better. We gave it our all.”