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Bull Dogs draw bye as sectional hoops pairings announced

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Columbus North boys basketball coach Jason Speer isn’t too worried about changing much as his Bull Dogs head into sectional tournament play.

“There is no magic wand you can sprinkle over your basketball team at this point,” Speer said on Sunday after the sectional basketball pairings were announced. “You are what you are. We just will try to stay the course and play the game the right way.”

The Bull Dogs are good.

North is ranked No. 2 in the state and has an overall record of 20-1 going into Tuesday’s final-regular season game at Seymour.

In the sectional, which North will host beginning Feb. 26, the Bull Dogs get a first-round bye. They play the winner of the Feb. 26 first-round game between Columbus East and Shelbyville (7:30 p.m.) at 7:30 p.m. March 1.

The other Feb. 26 game matches Bloomington South vs. East Central. The winner of that game has a March 1 matchup against Bloomington North, which also received a bye.

“It’s the perfect storm for Friday night’s games,” Speer said of the March 1 semifinals. “If things play out, you could have Bloomington North playing Bloomington South (at 6 p.m.) and Columbus East playing Columbus North (at 7:30 p.m.). That’s a lot of local interest.”

Speer said his team needs to experience some post-season success to validate its lofty standing. “Currently, where the program is, that’s what we’ve talked about,” he said. “We feel we have to have some tournament success to validate the regular season. The last two years (in the sectional) at Bloomington South, we weren’t able to figure it out. But most of our kids haven’t played a sectional game on their home floor.

“To practice and play on your home floor is a huge advantage. And this is such a great venue.”

Speer is confident that his players will rise to the challenge.

“These kids are breaking their own records right now,” he said. “They had a great season last year and it has carried over. It’s really been exciting to watch these kids develop.”

He doesn’t believe the long lay-off that a first-round bye presents will hurt his team. “I think that with an experienced team, such as we have, that the players take everything in stride. We have risen to every challenge.”

After a string of blowouts, North has faced a couple of tense challenges in wins over Franklin (49-48) and Bloomington North (85-77) in the past two games.

“I think that every team that has played us has played their best,” Speer said. “We are used to that. I feel we have taken everyone’s best shot.”

He also wouldn’t be surprised no matter which teams make it to the March 1 semifinals.

“All six teams are really good,” he said. “It makes it interesting.”

With one game remaining (Friday at home vs. Plainfield) in its regular season, Brent Chitty’s Olympians will be trying to build some momentum for sectional play. East (12-6) has gone 3-4 down the stretch. The Olympians beat Shelbyville 75-49 during the regular season so an East-North game on the Friday night of the tournament looms as a huge possibility.

Among other local teams, Hauser (1-18) drew an interesting first-round game in the South Decatur Sectional as it will face Jac-Cen-Del, the only team it has defeated this season (82-77) on Feb. 9. If the Jets get past that one, they face Rising Sun (2-17) in the next round. South Decatur (13-5) is on the other side of the bracket and has drawn a first-round bye.

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