INDIANAPOLIS — Having been outrebounded badly in last year’s loss to Pike, Columbus North girls basketball coach Pat McKee stressed the importance of rebounding in Saturday morning’s shootaround.
The Bull Dogs got the message. They won the battle of the boards against a taller Red Devil squad, and Class 4A No. 2 North held on for a 57-50 Conference Indiana win at 4A No. 10 Pike.
“Last year when we lost to them, that was one of the reasons why we lost — because they outrebounded us,” said point guard Ali Patberg, who led the Bull Dogs with 21 points and 11 rebounds. “We are smaller, but to get the rebound, it’s more about heart, just going after the ball, and I think we did today.”
North (5-0, 2-0), with no starter taller than 5-10, outrebounded the Red Devils (4-1, 1-1), who featured a pair of 6-footers, 38-29.
“We did good boxing out and getting out on their players,” said Kelsey Cunningham, who scored 10 points.
The Bull Dogs had to hang on for dear life after building a big lead. Hanna Ballard hit two 3-pointers, and Cunningham knocked down a 3 to give them an 11-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
Pike cut the margin to six early in the third quarter, but a 3-pointer by Paige Littrell sparked a 13-4 run that pushed the lead to 43-28 early in the fourth period. A Patberg basket with 6:20 remaining that made it 45-30 would be North’s last field goal of the game.
The Red Devils used a 10-1 run to cut the lead to six with 4:20 left. They got to within 53-50 with 26 seconds remaining, but Patberg hit 3 of 4 free throws, and Ballard added one to ice it.
The Bull Dogs finished 17 of 24 at the free-throw line, including 12 of 16 in the fourth quarter.
“We practice free throws every day in practice, so we know that when we have free throws at the end, that we’ll do well and we’ll pull through,” said Cunningham, who went 7 of 8 from the line.
Tayler Goodall added eight points and six rebounds for the Bull Dogs, who nearly lost a big lead for the second straight game against a top-10 opponent. A week earlier, they held on for a 64-62 win over 4A No. 6 Lawrence North.
“To play four quarters like that in that kind of intensity, we need to be more in condition,” Patberg said. “We just need to close out teams.”