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FOR a while in its game against the visiting Pike boys basketball team on Thursday night, it was Columbus North in reverse.
The Bull Dogs have gotten some big leads this season, then have gone into lulls, letting those leads slip away.
However, in a 65-53 loss to the Red Devils, North played poorly through the first half and much of the third quarter before finally making a run in the final quarter.
North, which trailed 44-27 in the third quarter, had a chance to tie the score in the fourth quarter but missed a 3-pointer that would have made it 53-53.
On the Bull Dogs’ next possession, they could have cut the lead to one, but missed a pair of free throws.
Pike (10-6) took over from there, slamming the door by scoring the next 12 points.
North (16-5) went 3 for 19 from the field in the first quarter with six turnovers and still managed an 11-10 lead. Bull Dogs coach Jason Speer said that the ugly start had a lot to do with his team’s loss.
“Pike gave us every opportunity to knock them out and we didn’t take it,” Speer said. “We should have come out knowing we were the better team.
“We need to revisit knowing what we are good at doing. We are a smash-mouth team.”
North did not look like a smash-mouth team against Pike, which had superior quickness in overall team speed. The Bull Dogs, who finished 9 of 35 from the field in the first half with 10 turnovers, would drive into the paint, but simply would not finish.
Josh Speidel, North’s talented junior power forward, took it upon himself to change that mindset in the third quarter. He scored nine consecutive points for his team by taking it right at Pike center Tahjai Teague, a 6-foot-8 junior. Twice Teague rapped Speidel in the head as he was going past, but was not called for a foul. Nonetheless, Speidel didn’t let the contact deter him and scored anyway.
“I was just trying to get tougher,” said Speidel, who led North with 15 points. “We didn’t come out with the effort we needed and I had missed a couple of shots before that. My teammates had made good passes and I didn’t make the baskets. So I tried to finish.”
Speer acknowledged that Speidel started to bring his team back, but said his team’s strength is playing together as a unit.
“When we are great is when we come together collectively,” Speer said. “We are struggling with our identity right now,” Speer said. “We are asking our kids to be a tough team.”
The Bull Dogs were not tough when it came to handling the basketball. They spit it up continuously through the game and seemed in a rush even when they weren’t turning it over the 17 times. North never found its usual offensive flow.
“We are taking breaks at inopportune times,” Speer said.
Why is North turning over the ball so much?
“I wish I knew,” Speer said.
Speidel said the Bull Dogs “will not let this happen again.”
“We need to come together as a team,” he said. “We can build off this. Pike is a team that we could see down the road.”
Pike now leads the series against North 17-0.
Elliott Welmer had 12 points for North and Evan Henry added 10 points.
Teague scored 20 points for Pike, including four 3-pointers. Pike point guard Justin Thomas scored eight of his 10 points in the second half and was a defensive thorn in North’s side all night.
North hosts Franklin at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
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