With the defensive fury the Columbus North girls basketball team released in the first quarter of the sectional championship game Saturday night, Bloomington South needed just to survive those first eight minutes.
The Panthers couldn’t.
Playing what North’s Tayler Goodall called her team’s “best defensive game of the season,” the Bull Dogs won their second consecutive sectional title with a 66-45 win at Columbus East High School.
The Bull Dogs (25-0), who looked sluggish in a 60-46 semifinal victory against Bloomington North, simply never gave the Panthers (15-8) a chance to breathe in those opening eight minutes in which they took a 20-6 lead. The boa constrictor defense forced South to shoot two for 12 from the field and caused six turnovers.
“I thought we had a lot more energy tonight,” Goodall said. “Our defense was really good, and I think they were frustrated.
“But we still aren’t satisfied.”
North will play at noon on Saturday in the regional semifinal at Bedford North Lawrence, which ran its record to 24-0 on Saturday with a 54-34 New Albany Sectional championship victory over Floyd Central.
It will take Saturday’s first-quarter effort times four to beat Bedford North Lawrence in the No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown. “We conditioned for this in the fall,” Goodall said.
North’s Ali Patberg, who had a fantastic night with 27 points on 11 of 14 shooting from the free-throw line, had to be in condition as she hammered away at the Panthers on both ends of the court for 30 of the 32 minutes. “I think (Friday night) we came out kind of slow,” said Patberg, who also dominated the glass as well. “The coaches emphasized coming out with energy.”
She drilled her first shot of the game, a 3-pointer that also was the game’s first points. She hit another 3 in the quarter while senior Hanna Ballard and Goodall, who scored 13 points on the night, also dropped 3s.
More than anything, the first quarter set the tone for the night.
If South tried to pressure Patberg, who played the point on offense, she would drive past the defender. If they sagged, she would hit a 3. The Panthers simply couldn’t deal with her.
“The team fed off me tonight,” said Patberg, who said it could easily be another Bull Dog next Saturday.
South simply didn’t have that luxury as North just had a deeper, more talented roster. Mackenzie McNew tried to keep her team in the game with 15 points, all 3-pointers, but eventually Patberg got that assignment as well, and that was the end of that. Panthers forward Lauren Whitlach had a terrific night with 19 points, but only two other South players scored.
For North, Ballard finished with 10, and Kelsey Cunningham and Hannah Poindexter each added seven points.
The Panthers trailed 48-35 going into the final quarter and cut it to 54-42 on a Lexi Ingram 3-pointer, but North scored the next 10 points to put the game away.