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The Columbus East and Columbus North girls basketball teams have played to a virtual deadlock the past 10 years.
In the 16 meetings, counting sectional contests, the Olympians have won eight times, and the Bull Dogs have won eight times.
Recent history, however, shows a tilt in the East-North series. The Bull Dogs have won each of the past four meetings by at least 20 points.
The crosstown rivals will face off once again around 7:30 tonight in the semifinals of the Class 4A Bloomington South Sectional.
“Right now, we have a batch of wonderful players,” said Pat McKee, who is in his fourth year as the North coach. “I think East has good players, too, but for whatever reason, we’ve been able to come out on top. There were some games prior to the recent batch where North had good players, but for whatever reason, East came out on top several times.”
The Olympians hold a 5-1 lead in sectional games during the past 10 years. Three times during that span, East beat North in the sectional after losing to the Bull Dogs during the regular season.
“At sectional time, anything can happen, and it has happened,” said Danny Brown, who is in his 11th season as the East coach.
“Obviously, they have a lot of talent, and they’re playing very good basketball,” he said. “We have a little bit of momentum going. Probably (with wins against Floyd Central and Southport) Friday and Saturday, we’re playing our best basketball right now.”
The Olympians (10-9) have rebounded from a four-game losing skid by closing the regular season with a three-game winning streak.
“They’ve been our top scoring games so far, so hopefully those three games can roll us into sectional,” said senior Allyson Bunch, who leads East with 14.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.9 steals a game.
“They’ve won three in a row now, so they’re on a bit of a roll,” McKee said. “That’s the beauty of the tournament. It doesn’t matter what the past was. You have to go play that day.”
The 4A No. 3 Bull Dogs (20-2) received a scare on Saturday when star junior guard Ali Patberg sprained an ankle in practice. Patberg didn’t play in Tuesday’s opening-round sectional win over Shelbyville, but participated in practice on Wednesday.
“I felt great today,” Patberg said after Wednesday’s practice. “I sprained it pretty good, but I’ve taken good care of it. I’ve done the right stuff, and our trainer, Robyn (Coffer), has done a good job helping me get it healed.”
Patberg leads North with 18.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.9 steals a game. Senior Tayler Goodall adds 16.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.0 steals. Senior Kelsey Cunningham averages 9.5 points and 2.5 steals and is a big key in a defense that is allowing only 40.8 points a game.
“I don’t know if it’s so much slowing them down,” Brown said. “We have to execute our offense. They play tough man-to-man against us, and their press is always a handful for us. We have to cut down on turnovers, and we have to execute and make shots.”
“Definitely, we need to come out hungry, come out with a bang,” Bunch said. “That’s been our problem — starting out slow — so I think if we pick up the pace at the beginning of the game or slow them down, I think that will help us out tremendously.”
North’s pressure defense has forced several early turnovers and allowed the Bull Dogs to get out to big leads early in recent meetings with the Olympians.
“None of that matters,” McKee said. “This is a new game and a new day. They’re a quality team, and they have capable scorers. If we play well, that’s good for us. But if we don’t play well and they happen to play well, they’re a capable team.
“Allyson Bunch can fill it up,” he said. “Audrey Wetzel is a good player. Gracie Hatton hurt us last time on the boards. Courtney Hunter has good quickness. Brooke Ballard is a good player. You can go down the line — they’re a good team.”
North, meanwhile, has won nine in a row since a loss to nationally-ranked Columbia (Mo.) Rock Bridge on Jan. 9 in St. Louis.
“We’re playing well,” Cunningham said. “Our freshmen (Imani Guy and Maliah Howard-Bass) are stepping it up. We want to go out with a bang. It’s me and Tayler and Emmy (Schabel’s) last North-East game, and we’re excited.”
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