THE Columbus North girls basketball team didn’t get off to the best of starts in Thursday night’s showdown against national power Chicago Whitney Young.
The Bull Dogs’ finish, on the other hand, was quite the opposite.
Class 4A No. 2 North rallied from a six-point deficit in the final minute of regulation and a four-point deficit in overtime to rally for a 72-67 win, keep its unbeaten streak alive and state its case for a high national ranking in next week’s polls.
“We gave so much heart, and we never gave up, and that’s what’s awesome about our team,” said sophomore Ali Patberg, who led the Bull Dogs with a career-high 31 points. “We’re never going to give up. Executing is good, but the heart, you can’t get that from any team.”
Whitney Young (14-3) came in ranked No. 2 in the country in Max Preps’ Xcellent 25 and No. 5 by USA Today. North (15-0) is ranked No. 15 in Max Preps’ Freeman Rankings.
The Bull Dogs came out a little shaky, committing nine first-quarter turnovers — more than they had the entire game in either of last week’s Hall of Fame Classic victories. The Dolphins led 22-15 after one quarter and built the lead to as many as 14 midway through the second period.
North got back in the game by scoring the final seven points of the first half and the first two of the second half, cutting the lead to 34-29. The lead bounced between six and eight the rest of the third quarter.
Whitney Young pushed the lead to nine with 5-1/2 minutes remaining and still led 57-50 with less than two minutes left. A Kelsey Cunningham 3-pointer cut it to four, then after a Dolphins basket, Tayler Goodall converted a three-point play to cut the lead to three.
The Bull Dogs had two fouls to give, and when Whitney Young finally got in the bonus, Linnae Harper missed the front end. North’s Emmy Schabel then buried a 3-pointer to tie it with 28 seconds left.
“I knew I could do it, and I just shot it,” Schabel said. “Knowing that you have to go in, and you have to do something big to help our team win, we were all just prepared to win.”
North had a chance to win in regulation after Harper missed the front end of another one-and-one, but Patberg’s driving layup with three seconds left bounced off the rim.
Harper scored the first four points of the overtime before Goodall and Patberg converted one-and-ones to tie it. Goodall then stole the ball and fed Patberg for a layup and the Bull Dogs’ first lead of the game with 1:30 remaining in overtime.
Two more free throws by Goodall put North ahead 67-63. Harper scored for the Dolphins, but Patberg and Goodall each hit two free throws to make it 71-65 with 36 seconds left. A Harper basket cut it to four with 21 seconds left, but Cunningham made a free throw after an intentional foul to cap the scoring.
Goodall finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds — six of which came on the offensive end — to lead North to a 31-25 advantage on the boards.
“Since I wasn’t making my shots, I had to step up my rebounding, and my teammates stepped up shooting the ball,” Goodall said. “I thought we came out ready to win tonight, and we just didn’t give up.”
Cunningham added 12 points for the Bull Dogs. North went 11 of 12 from the free-throw line in overtime and 21 of 26 for the game, while Whitney Young went 3 of 11.
The victory extends the Bull Dogs’ regular-season winning streak to 29 and their home winning streak to 16. They’ve won 34 of their past 35 overall.
“It feels great,” Patberg said. “We just have to keep coming out and practicing and work even harder than we have been. The sky is the limit, but we have to work hard.”