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North steps on gas in 2nd half vs. Southport

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AT halftime of a close game Friday night, Columbus North students played a game of “Knockout” to raise money to build homes and help orphans in Haiti.

Then, when the second half began, the Bull Dog boys basketball team played its own version of “Knockout.”

Class 4A No. 4 North, which had slogged through the first half against a winless Southport team, found its rhythm after the break in pulling away for a 78-39 Conference Indiana rout.

“The second half, we started running a lot faster, and we really shared the ball a lot more and made the extra pass and got our guys open, and that really paid off at the end,” said senior Connor Oren, who came off the bench to score all of his career-high 14 points in the game’s final 9:15.

The Bull Dogs (15-1, 4-1) led only 21-15 with a minute left in the first half. They hit three free throws to take a nine-point halftime lead. Then after a Southport basket to start the second half, North ran off nine in a row to push the margin to 33-17.

The Bull Dogs extended the lead to 46-26 by the end of the third quarter and led by as many as 40 late in the game.

“There is no magic wand at halftime,” North coach Jason Speer said. “We just highlighted some things — too many turnovers and low-percentage shots, and obviously in the second half, we turned it around. We were getting more high-percentage shots and kept control of the basketball and got the ball in scoring positions.”

“(Speer) told us that our defensive game is good, but we really need to get our offense in gear and start running harder and getting our minds in the game,” Oren said. “He said we were playing well physically, but not mentally.”

After going 9 of 26 from the field in the first half, the Bull Dogs went 20 of 37 in the second half in outscoring the Cardinals (0-11, 0-5) 54-24.

“It was a tale of two halves for us offensively,” Speer said. “I think that we were maybe pressing a little bit, and we just weren’t in sync.”

North also had only one turnover in the second half after committing 11 in the first half, including nine in the opening quarter.

“We challenged them,” Speer said. “We were turning the ball over way too much in the first half. For us to only have one turnover (in the second half) is a little more characteristic of how we want to play.”

“We just started running more and attacking the basket,” said junior Evan Henry, who led the Bull Dogs with 17 points. “We just needed to limit our turnovers, and we’ll be fine.”

Sawyer Glick scored 14 points, and Tori Jackson added 10 points and nine rebounds for the Bull Dogs. Clint Cunningham came off the bench to grab 10 rebounds to lead North to a 46-34 advantage on the boards.

“I thought our guard play was really good in the second half,” Speer said. “Evan and Sawyer really kind of took it upon themselves to really lead us in the second half offensively, and then Connor Oren just did a tremendous job running the floor for us and catching the basketball, turning hard and finishing.”

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