NORTH VERNON — Class 4A No. 8 Columbus North
battled back in the fourth quarter Saturday night to pull out a 64-56 win at Jennings County.
The Bull Dogs outscored the Panthers 21-10 in the final period to earn the victory.
“We ran out of gas,” Jennings coach Joe Hartwell said. “North is a very deep team. They took advantage of our misses late in the game.”
The game stayed tight through the first quarter. At the end of the first quarter, North (11-1) led 15-13. The Panthers (8-5) didn’t fade away.
Two early fouls put North sophomore Josh Speidel, who went on to score 14 points to lead Bull Dog scorers, on the bench for the entire second quarter, and he was held scoreless in the first half. Going into halftime, the Panthers led 29-24.
“Josh is a very good teammate,” North coach Jason Speer said. “He gets everyone involved. When he’s not on the floor, we’re not as good a team.” Speidel was shut down early on by strong play from Jennings County 6-foot-9 junior Brad Hunt.
“Brad is our X factor,” Hartwell said. “When Brad plays well, the team plays well. We need him to play that way the rest of the season.”
The teams stayed close through the third quarter and Jennings took a 46-43 lead into the fourth. The Panthers held the Bull Dogs until junior Elliott Welmer hit a 3-pointer with 3:13 remaining to tie the game at 50. Welmer hit a pair of free throws at 2:28 to give North a two-point lead. The Bull Dogs did not trail the rest of the game.
“We knew Jennings County was a tough team,” Speidel said. “They’re especially tough at home. We had a sense of urgency going into the fourth quarter.”
While the record books will record a Jennings County loss, the Panthers proved their talent by playing well against the Bull Dogs. The defeat was a tough one for the Panthers who felt going into the game they had something to prove.
“We played hard all the way through,” Jennings sophomore Caleb Eder said. “We wanted this more than anything. We played with emotion, and we knew coming in we had nothing to lose.”
“We want every game,” said Hunt, who scored 15 points. “We proved tonight we can play with anybody. We play with a lot of emotion and it helps us go hard all the time.”
“Jennings County was more focused and tougher through most of the game,” Speer said. “The fact we were able to win is a testament to our kids.”
“We showed our toughness tonight,” Welmer said. “We kept our composure through the game, and that’s because of our great bench.”
Speidel being out of the game the majority of the first half enabled Speer to bring him into the game the second half rested and ready to play.
“I was able to come back strong, and that was due to my teammates,” Speidel said. “When I was open, they found me the ball and made some great passes.”