NEW CASTLE — Just call them giant killers.
The Columbus North girls basketball team took on two No. 1-ranked teams Friday, and the Bull Dogs turned away both squads. They routed Class 4A No. 1 Hamilton Southeastern 53-30 in the morning and held off Class 2A No. 1 Evansville Mater Dei 63-55 in the evening to win the Hall of Fame Classic at New Castle.
“It feels great,” said junior Tayler Goodall, the tournament MVP. “It was an awesome experience, and it was fun.”
The Bull Dogs (14-0), who were making their first Hall of Fame appearance, became the first girls or boys team to knock off two No. 1-ranked teams in the same tournament in the event’s history. They ran their regular-season winning streak to 28 games heading into Thursday’s showdown with national power Whitney Young from Chicago.
North prevailed Friday by keeping frontrunners for this year’s and next year’s Indiana Miss Basketball awards in check.
The Bull Dogs held 6-foot-3 Notre Dame recruit Taya Reimer to 10 points and four rebounds in the win against Hamilton Southeastern, then held Mater Dei junior Maura Muensterman — who had scored a tournament semifinal record 40 points in a morning win against 4A No. 4 Logansport — to 22.
“We just tried to pressure her and try get help-side and switch on screens,” said junior Kelsey Cunningham, who along with Goodall and sophomore Ali Patberg spent the majority of time on the 5-11 Muensterman. “(Assistant) coach (Brett) White watched their (semifinal) game, and he told us what we needed to work on.”
“Our coaches do a good job of figuring out what each player’s strengths and weaknesses are,” Patberg said.
The Bull Dogs enjoyed their largest lead at 42-28 with three minutes left in the third quarter, but Mater Dei (12-1) scored the next eight points to cut it to six.
The Wildcats cut the lead to four three times in the closing minutes, but Goodall converted a one-and-one, and Cunningham knocked down back-to-back one-and-ones in the final minute to ice it.
Goodall went 5-of-7 from 3-point range and led North with 23 points and six rebounds.
Patberg, who was named to the All-Tournament team, added 19 points and six assists, and Cunningham finished with 14 points.
Mater Dei’s 6-2 Tori Schickel, who was named to the All-Tournament team along with Muensterman, had 20 points and 10 rebounds.
In the semifinals, the 5-10 Patberg and 5-9 Goodall took turns fronting Reimer and 6-1 Jessica Pongonis, and North outrebounded the Royals 23-16.
“We’re not big, but we’re scrappy,” Goodall said. “We tried to double-team and block out. It’s pretty tough when you’re guarding a 6-3 player, being 5-9, but she’s a great player, and it was a great experience.”
“It wasn’t just me and Tayler,” Patberg said. “It was our teammates. We had to front them, so it was pretty much our teammates on help-side. We did a pretty good job on help-side, and I think we learned from (last week’s win against) Fort Wayne South. We didn’t do that very well (against Fort Wayne South), but we learned, and we just played hard.”
Southeastern led 8-6 late in the first quarter and was within 15-12 early in the second when the Bull Dogs went on a 22-4 run to take control. North built the lead to 46-22 after three quarters.
“We definitely came out ready to play,” Patberg said. “We knew it was going to be a good game. We came out at halftime, and I think we took their last burst of energy out and dominated the second half.”
Goodall led North with 19 points. Patberg added 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
“We’re very thankful and blessed to play in this tournament, and to win it is just awesome,” Patberg said.