BLOOMINGTON — Heading to Bloomington South on Friday night to face the Panthers in a big Conference Indiana match-up, the Columbus North Bull Dogs had something to prove.
And they did just that.
North (17-1) pounded out a 70-60 victory against the Panthers, a win that meant just a little bit more after North lost to South on that same court in last year’s sectional final.
When asked what the win meant for North, junior point guard Evan Henry had one word: “Revenge.”
“It’s a great win for us,” said Henry, who had 16 points for the Bull Dogs. “We showed that we can play in a tough sectional type of environment and still pull through with a 10-point lead on their home court.”
The Bull Dogs had to prove that toughness in the fourth quarter, when the Panthers came storming back from a 15-point deficit to pull within five points with 2:09 remaining.
However, North senior center Tori Jackson hit an inside layup after a South timeout. It was followed with a South turnover and two clutch free throws from North senior Clint Cunningham and one by senior Sawyer Glick to put the Bull Dogs back up 10 and take the game out of reach of the Panthers.
Jackson finished with 12 points, while Glick had 13 and Cunningham added six off the bench.
North head coach Jason Speer attributed the Bull Dogs’ composure down the stretch to experience.
North shot 76 percent from the free-throw line in the second half.
The game started out close, with the Bull Dogs up 17-14 after the first quarter.
Through quick defense and tough play inside, North outscored South 20-11 in the second quarter and was able to keep its lead until the final buzzer.
North sophomore Josh Speidel led the Bull Dogs with 17 points and six rebounds, while senior Paul Salee added five.
Isaiah Gooch and Tucker Blackwell led the Panthers with 12 points a piece, followed by Johnny Jager with 11 and Keaton Hendricks with 10.
Speer emphasized the positive impact the win will have for the Bull Dogs’ season development in preparation for the postseason run.
“It doesn’t necessarily take away what happened last year in the tournament,” Speer said. “But we know at this point that we can beat Bloomington South, and if we do happen to face them in the tournament, that’s exactly what we will say. We have been here before, and we can do it again.”