The Class Basketball Era hasn’t been kind to the Columbus North and Columbus East boys.
Neither team has won a sectional title since class basketball began in the 1997-98 school year. The Bull Dogs last won a sectional in 1997, a year after the Olympians claimed their last sectional crown.
On Saturday night, one of those schools will have a chance to break that drought. Class 4A No. 3 North (21-1) and East (14-6) will meet at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the second semifinal of the North Sectional.
Bloomington North (12-8) and Bloomington South (11-10) will play in the first semifinal at 6 p.m. Friday. The championship game will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
If you go
WHAT: Columbus North Boys Basketball Sectional semifinals and final
Semifinals: Bloomington North (12-8) vs. Bloomington South (11-10), 6 p.m. Friday; Columbus North (21-1) vs. Columbus East (14-6), 7:45 p.m. Friday
FINAL: Semifinal winners tip off
at 7:30 p.m. Saturday
ADMISSION: $6 per session; $10 all sessions
While Columbus North and East played each other in the sectional the last few years of the one-class tournament, they’ve only met twice in the 15 class basketball postseasons. The Bull Dogs won 63-55 in 1999, and the Olympians won 68-53 in 2011, avenging an 18-point regular-season loss to North that year.
In the teams’ regular-season meeting this year, the Bull Dogs prevailed 69-59 on their home court.
“The kids know each other really well,” North coach Jason Speer said. “It should be a fun environment. It should be an exciting basketball game.”
A much taller Bull Dogs squad outrebounded East 36-24 in that Dec. 18 meeting.
“We better block out and rebound,” East coach Brent Chitty said. “Those guys are big.”
“Strategically, it will be very important for us to take great shots,” Speer said. “If we’re able to do that and then be able to rebound a little bit and get back in transition defense, I hope that will give us a chance to win the basketball game. Those things will be very important.”
North’s lone loss this season was a 76-74 setback at Pike (which was No. 2 in 4A at the time) four days before the East game. The Bull Dogs have won 17 in a row since then.
“We have nothing but a lot of respect for Columbus North,” Chitty said. “I think they’ve had a great year. Jason and his coaching staff did a great job. Hopefully, we’ll come and compete.”
The Olympians started 8-1 and were 11-3 prior to a three-game losing streak late in the season. They’ve responded with three consecutive wins, including a 76-65 victory against Shelbyville on Tuesday in the opening round of the sectional.
“They’re an extremely experienced team that’s won a lot of basketball games in their career,” Speer said. “They’re extremely dangerous, and we’ll have to play our best game to beat them.”
Junior point guard Evan Henry leads the Bull Dogs with 13.7 points a game. Senior guard Sawyer Glick averages 12.9 points, while sophomore forward Josh Speidel adds 12.7 points and senior center Tori Jackson contributes 10.0 points and 7.6 rebounds.
Junior center Bryce Lienhoop leads the Olympians with 14.1 points and 9.8 rebounds, while senior forward Zach Martindale and senior guard Nate Rich each add 9.6 points. Senior forward Ridge Harris averages 9.9 points, but has missed the past two games with a calf injury and is questionable for Friday.
Chitty downplayed the possible homecourt advantage the Bull Dogs will enjoy.
“We just want to play,” Chitty said. “We’re excited for the opportunity. They’re a good team. They’re good on any floor, so it will be a good challenge for us.”