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Bull Dogs look to continue hoops excellence

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Josh Speidel pushes through Bloomington North defense during Columbus North's sectional game against Bloomington North on Friday, March 7, 2014 at Shelbyville High School.
Josh Speidel pushes through Bloomington North defense during Columbus North's sectional game against Bloomington North on Friday, March 7, 2014 at Shelbyville High School.

It’s obvious that the Columbus North boys basketball program, which failed to defend its sectional title this season, is experiencing some pain right now.

The bar has been raised to a very high level.

That’s why a team that went 20-6, finished second in the Hall of Fame Tournament and won the Bob Wettig Tournament, and captured a share of the Conference Indiana title wasn’t satisfied.

Bull Dogs coach Jason Speer, who has gone 99-40 since taking over at North in 2008-09, expects the quality of play to remain high, as well as the expectations.

“Every kid we have in the program, including the kids coming in, have that commonality of working hard,” said Speer about his junior varsity and freshmen teams, along with the area’s junior high school players. “That’s a carryover from some of the upperclassmen who have left. It’s a nice recipe for the kids to follow. There is no reason we can’t continue.”

Before Speer arrived at North, the team had losing records in seven of the previous eight seasons. Speer’s first team went 9-12, and the team has been 90-28 since. In the past three seasons, the Bull Dogs are 62-14.

Blessed with some exceptional talent, the Bull Dogs were hoping for more.

“We didn’t achieve all the goals we wanted,” Speer said. “We had a great group of kids who were very talented.”

Despite the inside combination of 6-foot-9 Elliott Welmer and 6-foot-8 Josh Speidel, the Bull Dogs lost in the semifinals of the sectional tournament. All season, it seemed the team had a proclivity to waste large leads.

Speer said it was hard to put a finger on what would go wrong.

“I wish I could box it up,” he said.

Streaky shooting had to be one of the culprits. Opponents packed defenses tight to combat Welmer and Speidel, and the Bull Dogs, who shot 34 percent from the 3-point line for the season, weren’t consistent enough as a team to break zones.

When the Bull Dogs were rolling, though, they were awesome.

In the finals of the Wettig Tournament, North crushed Richmond, which won its sectional, 81-60 in the title game.

“We were very good in transition,” Speer said. “And, I think, exciting to watch.”

The future holds its own challenges. Welmer will graduate and head to Saint Louis University after a year of prep school. “The sky is the limit for him,” Speer said.

Guard Evan Henry will graduate as well and will take his basketball talents to Saint Francis. Christian Glass, who graduates, was an excellent shooting guard from off the bench and some instant offense for the team. Also graduating will be 6-foot-7 Nick Littrell and 6-2 guard Andre Abedian.

Although the junior varsity team had four players 6-foot-4 or taller on the roster, it appears Speidel, who just completed his junior season, will be the lone true big man.

Even so, Speer noted, “Height won’t be a problem.”

The planning for next season will begin soon, and the pain of an early tournament exit will subside.

“The bottom line is that I am very fortunate to coach a great group of kids,” Speer said.

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