The venue was different, and the round of the regional was different, but the way the season came to an end for Columbus North was just as painful.
The Bull Dogs suffered through one of their coldest shooting nights of the season Saturday against a tall and talented Bedford North Lawrence team. The defending Class 4A state champions took advantage to post a 68-54 win, eliminating North for the second consecutive year.
The third-ranked Bull Dogs, who won Conference Indiana and sectional titles for the third straight year, finished 23-3.
“They have nothing to be ashamed of,” North coach Pat McKee said of his players. “They’re a fabulous group, and they’ve played fabulously all year.”
Kelsey Cunningham and Tayler Goodall, the Bull Dogs’ two senior starters, wrapped up their careers by leading North with 15 points apiece. Goodall, with 1,291 career points, fell one short of school-record holder Tina Bolte’s 1,292.
“We weren’t making shots, but everything else, we tried our best,” Cunningham said. “We prepared well. We had the right strategy and everything. We just couldn’t hit our shots.”
“We tried,” Goodall said. “We played our hearts out. It’s been awesome playing with these girls. We gave it our all.”
The Bull Dogs shot only 31.3 percent from the field (20-of-64), including 25 percent (8-of-32) from 3-point range against the Stars’ 2-3 zone. North’s leading scorer, Ali Patberg, went 4-of-21 from the field and finished with 10 points.
“Defense is something that we’ve kind of hung our hat on all year, and this is definitely a team that you need it against,” Bedford coach Damon Bailey said.
“Obviously with Tayler, Ali, Kelsey and Paige (Littrell), they have four starters there that can really score. We obviously knew we would have a difficult time guarding them man-to-man, and fortunately, we were able to get off to a good enough start offensively where we could get a little big of a lead, sit back in a 2-3 and take some of the shooters away.”
Bailey was content to let North fire away from 3-point range.
“If you can get defensively where you can make people score over you, you’re going to have a lot of success, and that’s what we preach to the kids all the time,” Bailey said.
“If they made 17-, 18-, 19-foot jumpers, so be it. We know Ali, Tayler, those kids are good enough going to the basket shooting two- or three-foot shots. We know they can make those, so we wanted to try to keep them on the perimeter, and fortunately for us, they weren’t making them.”
Dominique McBryde, a 6-foot-2 junior Purdue recruit, led the Stars (24-1) with 22 points. Jenna Allen, a 6-3 junior and Indiana University recruit, had 17 points and
“I think we can get it inside and do some things, but they’re so big they intimidate with their size and presence,” McKee said. “Then all of a sudden, we’re looking for perimeter shots, and we rushed a few. For the season, we’ve shot well over 40 percent on those, and if we make
40 percent of 32, that’s a bunch more points.”
The Bull Dogs were within 13-11 late in the first quarter when the Stars went on a 12-0 run to take a 25-11 lead with four minutes left in the first half. At that point, North had missed all eight of its 3-point attempts.
“Some went in and out for us, and they had a couple that rolled around, went up and then dropped through,” McKee said. “You give us four to six more points and take four to six away from them, obviously the game is closer.”
The Bull Dogs closed within 31-24 midway through the third quarter, but BNL answered with a 10-0 run. North came back to within 54-44 with 2:41 left in the game before the Stars scored the next eight points to put it away.
BNL committed 17 turnovers to only six for the Bull Dogs.
“We did a lot of good things,” McKee said. “We didn’t play poorly. We just didn’t make enough shots. Bedford is an excellent team. They made some shots. We made a couple runs at them. Then, when we had to foul, they made not every free throw, but a darn sure bunch of them.”
North advanced to the final with a 79-48 rout of Franklin Central Saturday morning. The Bull Dogs shot 60.5 percent (26-of-43) from the field.
“We defended pretty well, we got some break opportunites, then when we went to the half-court, I thought we ran stuff well, moved it well and got good shots,” McKee said.
Goodall and Patberg each had 26 points and six rebounds. Littrell added 13 points, and Patberg had nine assists.
“I think we were ready,” Goodall said. “This is what we’ve been preparing for. We said before the game ‘Come out with fire, and let’s take it to them early and not wait until the second half.’”
“Coach said ‘Come out strong, and keep pouring it on,’” Patberg said. “We just needed to play well and get the job done, and we did. I wasn’t expecting anything less.”