The streak began with Lawrence Central, and it almost ended with Lawrence Central.
The Columbus North girls basketball team’s regular-season winning streak was in jeopardy when it trailed by five points with six minutes left in Saturday afternoon’s Conference Indiana tilt. But the Class 4A No. 2 Bull Dogs rallied for a 40-39 victory.
North’s win was its 22nd in a row in the regular season and its 12th in a row at home. It also gave Pat McKee his 50th career coaching victory in only 61 games.
But this one didn’t come easy. It wasn’t over until the Bears missed two shots in the final five seconds, and Kelsey Cunningham grabbed the rebound and dribbled out the clock.
Lawrence Central (3-5, 0-3) led 37-32 with six minutes remaining when North’s Ali Patberg took over. The sophomore hit a runner in the lane, a 3-pointer and a backdoor layup in a one-minute span to bring the Bull Dogs (8-0, 3-0) from a five-point deficit to a two-point lead.
“I knew we were down, and we had to kick it in,” Patberg said.
But the Bears weren’t done. McKenzy Telfair made free throw to cut it to one, and North’s Hannah Poindexter answered with a free throw to make it 40-38 with 3:19 left. North got the ball back and held it for almost two minutes before Lawrence Central came up with a steal.
The Bears’ Calyn Hosea made a free throw with 53 seconds remaining to cut it to one again. The Bull Dogs turned it over with 22 seconds left, giving Lawrence Central a shot to win.
After a tieup with 7.6 seconds remaining, the Bears had the ball under their basket. Hosea missed a shot in the lane, and Telfair missed a point-blank putback, with Cunningham grabbing the rebound.
Patberg, who sprained an ankle in the second quarter, scored 14 of her 23 points in the second half.
“A lot of obstacles come your way in a game, and you just have to fight through it,” Patberg said.
Patberg had hit only two 3-pointers all season, but hit both of her long-range shots on Saturday. Emmy Schabel came off the bench to hit two big 3s in the third quarter and finished with eight points.
“Pat told me my role is to shoot, so when I go in, I just look for my shot and try to help the team any way I can,” Schabel said.
North hit 4 of 7 3s in the second half after going 0 of 7 in the first half.
“They were playing a sagging man(-to-man defense), and we just didn’t hit shots in the first half,” Schabel said.
The Bears’ 1-3-1 defense gave the Bull Dogs fits all afternoon. North went 8 of 28 from the field in the first half and 16 of 48 overall.
“You have to give them credit,” Patberg said.
“They played great defense. They played a matchup zone, so it was a little confusing. They were playing man, but they were playing zone. We got some wide-open shots, and we just missed them. We didn’t have a very good shooting day.”
“Our offense is for us to cut to the middle, and the middle wasn’t open tonight, so we had to try different plays and spread it out,” Cunningham said. “We just have to make our shots next time.”