IT wasn’t a work of art, but it was a history-making win for the Columbus North girls.
Jennings County gave the Class 4A No. 1 Bull Dogs all they could handle for the better part of three quarters Thursday night before North pulled away. The 68-38 win gave the Bull Dogs their first undefeated regular season in school history and tied the school-record 23 wins they set last season.
“It’s great,” said Hanna Ballard, the team’s lone senior, who scored 16 points. “We’ve all worked so hard, and hopefully, we can keep it up and reach more accomplishments that we want to do.”
Win No. 23 didn’t come as easy as the score would indicate. North led only 39-31 with two minutes left in the third quarter when it went on a 20-0 run to put it away.
“We didn’t come out focused,” said junior Tayler Goodall, who matched Ballard with 16 points. “We got off to a slow start, but we can’t let that affect us. We didn’t give up.”
Junior Emmy Schabel came off the bench to hit two 3-pointers and score eight of her 11 points during the 20-0 run, while Ballard added six points during the sport.
“We really improved our defense and were working together more, which helped us in the long run to be able to get back on our game,” Ballard said. “I think we didn’t start off with enough energy, and we brought that in the second half.”
North forced 35 Panther turnovers.
“I thought we played well for 2½ quarters, and I don’t even know if we played as well as we could,” Jennings coach Carrie Manowitz said. “We still had a lot of turnovers in that time period. Obviously, their pressure was good, but I felt like we did a lot of self-destructing in that amount of time, too.”
“They sped us up. When we slowed down, we were OK, but we just didn’t make good decisions when we broke the press.”
The Bull Dogs struggled against Jennings’ 3-2 zone in the first half, when they committed 14 of their 18 turnovers.
“We’re used to playing man (-to-man) both ways, so it kind of threw us off a little bit,” Goodall said. “But we’re going to see that a lot in the tournament, so it was a good time to prepare.”
“Jennings County did a great job with their defense, so we had a little trouble at first breaking it down,” Ballard said. “But once we talked about it at halftime, it helped us a lot to be able to make some moves that we needed to do.”
The Panthers (8-12) limited North to five 2-point field goals and four 3-pointers in the first half.
“I felt like we did a pretty decent job with their penetration,” Manowitz said. “They’re a good team. You stop their penetration, they still have outside shots. I felt we did well keeping them out of the lane, but they hit four 3s that first half, so that definitely hurt us.”
Halea Petro led Jennings with 12 points. Emily Ertel added 10 points and five rebounds.
Goodall grabbed six rebounds to lead North to a 24-22 advantage on the boards.
“(Being undefeated is) pretty awesome, but now we just have to take it one game at a time and start out 0-0,” Goodall said.