BLOOMINGTON — The Columbus North girls basketball team had shown its muscle through much of the sectional tournament going into Saturday night’s championship game.
Saturday night wasn’t any different.
After a sluggish start early in the first quarter, the Class 4A No. 3 Bull Dogs controlled host Bloomington South for much of the contest, with junior guard Ali Patberg scoring 21 points to lift North to a 66-48 win and its third consecutive sectional title.
“This was a reflection of our first game with them,” North coach Pat McKee said. “They attacked us early, but the girls came through and attacked the inside and had a great game.”
The Bull Dogs (22-2) trailed 14-7 with 1:10 remaining in the first quarter, but their high-octane offense came alive and scored the final six points of the quarter to trail 14-13.
North’s rhythm continued immediately into the second quarter. The Bull Dogs went on an 8-0 run and left the Bloomington South (17-6) scoreless for the first five minutes to take a 21-14 lead.
After four consecutive points by the Panthers to narrow the lead 21-18, the Bull Dogs outscored them 11-4 in the final two minutes of the first half, including a buzzer-beating shot by senior guard Kelsey Cunningham to take a 32-22 lead at the half.
Patberg scored 11 points in the first half.
“Coach told us we had to attack the basket,” Patberg said. “We had a lot of open chances and were able to wear them down in the second half.”
North continued its attack in the third quarter, going on a 9-2 run, with Patberg scoring five points in the spurt. The Bull Dogs outscored Bloomington South 18-13 in the quarter to lead 50-35.
With the reserves in for the last half of the fourth, North outscored the Panthers 16-13.
Cunningham scored 12 points for the Bull Dogs, while sophomore guard Paige Littrell added 12. Senior guard Tayler Goodall, who had been dominant from behind the 3-point arc for much of the tournament, scored 11.
“It was frustrating in the first half not being able to get as many points as I have,” Goodall said.
“It left Ali and Paige open to score, so I can’t be too upset. I was able to get better shots in the second half to extend the lead.”
Patberg said the game plan moving forward is simple: Take one game at a time.
“Being sectional champions is a great feeling,” Patberg said. “We have to take one game at a time now because anything can happen. We got outscored early in the game, but we pulled through as a team and were able to get the win, and that’s what we have to do from here on.”
“We are winning this for our seniors,” Littrell said of Goodall, Cunningham and Emmy Schabel. “They have been great teammates, and we want to take this a step further for them.”
McKee said the team needs to keep its constant focus heading into Saturday’s North regional. The Bull Dogs will play Franklin Central in the regional semifinals.
“It’s never easy in this stage,” McKee said. “We know we have to take this one step at a time and be able to play consistent in order to win.”