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North boys primed for hoops grind

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The Columbus North boys basketball team is hoping that having played two games in one day on Saturday prepares it for the three-day, four-game grind that begins today at Richmond.

The Bull Dogs have done this before. They’re the two-time defending champions of Richmond’s 16-team Bob Wettig Tournament and are looking to make it three in a row.

Class 4A No. 7 North (5-2) begins its quest at 1 p.m. today against Class A No. 6 Indianapolis Tindley (5-0). Immediately preceding that game, Jennings County (3-2) will play Connersville (3-2) at 11:30 a.m.

“We have to stay the course and continue to get better,” North coach Jason Speer said following Saturday’s 65-59 loss to 3A No. 1 Greensburg in the championship game of the Hall of Fame Classic. “If we continue to run in transition, and we’re able to execute defensive game plans, the sky is the limit. I don’t think there’s any doubt that anytime the ball is tipped up, we have confidence that we can win.”

The Bull Dogs will play East Central (1-4) or Bedford North Lawrence (1-3) in the second round. The losers of that game and the North-Tindley game will play at 10:30 a.m. Friday, and the winners will meet at 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Jennings will play Indianapolis Metropolitan (2-5) or Class 4A No. 11 Fort Wayne North (8-0) in the second round. The losers will play at 9 a.m. Friday, and the winners will meet at 4 p.m. Friday.

The Bull Dogs and Panthers could meet in the semifinals at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Placement-round games will be played all day Saturday at Richmond High School and Earlham College, culminating in the championship game at 7:30 p.m. at Richmond.

The host 4A No. 10 Red Devils (5-0) and 4A No. 16 Jeffersonville (4-1) are the top teams on the other side of the bracket from North and Jennings.

“I think there’s 15 teams there that any given day can win,” Speer said.

Rivalry renewed?

When North and Greensburg met in Saturday’s Hall of Fame Classic, it was the first time the two schools located 27 miles apart had faced each other since the final game of the 2003-04 regular season.

The Bull Dogs and Pirates had met regularly on the hardwood until that time, but the series faded. There’s no doubt fans would certainly have liked to see the teams play the past couple of years since both have returned to spots among the state’s elite.

“That’s an administrative decision,” Speer said. “It’s one of those things that I think the fans would enjoy. I think they have a great basketball tradition, and so do we. So anytime you have that sort of chemistry, I think it would make for a pretty good basketball game.”

A renewal of the rivalry doesn’t appear likely since the Eastern Indiana Conference, in which Greensburg plays, just added Connersville and Rushville this season.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Greensburg coach Stacy Meyer said. “We started a holiday tournament that we no longer play, but our conference has kind of made a switch. We’ve had two teams come into our conference, so now you’re in that situation where you don’t have room on your schedule. But it’s a good rivalry.”

Big challenge for North

The North girls will head west on Wednesday for a monumental challenge against one of the nation’s top teams. The Bull Dogs (11-1) will play Columbia (Mo.) Rock Bridge (7-2) at 1:30 pm. EST (12:30 p.m. CST) Jan. 9 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Shootout.

Rock Bridge is the two-time defending big-school division state champ in Missouri and features six Division I athletes, all who stand 5-foot-11 or taller. Five are at least 6-1.

The game should help prepare the Bull Dogs for a possible regional match-up with 4A No. 1 Bedford North Lawrence, which knocked them out on the way to a state title last season.

“(Rock Bridge is) probably more like Bedford,” North coach Pat McKee said. “I’m sure they’re athletic. I don’t know if they’re as athletic as Lawrence North (which handed the Bull Dogs their only loss this season), but if they are, they’re pretty good.”

Rock Bridge features Missouri commitments Bri and Cierra Porter, who played with North junior Ali Patberg one summer on a team coached by Patberg’s father, Ron, and BNL coach Damon Bailey. The Porters were then living in Illinois, when their father — who is now a Missouri women’s assistant — was an assistant with the Illinois State women’s program.

McKee, a St. Louis native, also has a connection to the Scottrade Center. While a sportswriter at The Indianapolis Star, he covered the 2001 women’s Final Four that saw Notre Dame beat Purdue in the national championship game in what was then called the Savvis Center.

McKee said the Bull Dogs’ trip to St. Louis will have an educational component. The team will attend class for the first two periods Wednesday, then travel to St. Louis, where they will tour the Museum of Westward Expansion, which is in the basement of the Gateway Arch.

“We’re trying to make it a really neat thing for them,” McKee said.

Bull Dogs set records

The North girls set a pair of tournament records in last weekend’s Subway/Columbus North Invitational.

The Bull Dogs set the record for most points scored in the three games with 220. North also tied their own record for fewest points allowed in one game in Friday’s 78-33 win over Dayton (Ohio) Chaminade-Julienne.

Columbus wrestlers ranked

Two wrestlers from Columbus are listed in this week’s state rankings.

Columbus East’s Dalton Noblitt is ranked No. 3 at 132 pounds. North’s Brandon Woods is No. 14 at 220.

Ted Schultz is a sports writer for The Republic. Send comments to

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