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North struggles late, ends season at 20-6

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It was a pattern the Columbus North boys basketball team never was able to overcome.

Get a big lead, then let it slip away.

Up by 16 points in the second quarter (28-12), the Bull Dogs fizzled offensively in the second half of a 56-49 loss to Bloomington North in the Shelbyville Sectional semifinals Friday night.

“Same stuff, different game,” said a disheartened Elliott Welmer, who completed his terrific high school career with a 23-point effort.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.

The Bull Dogs, who finished 20-6, scored just two points in the fourth quarter.

The Cougars (13-8) scored 15.

“In the second half, we just didn’t get the ball inside enough,” North coach Jason Speer said. “And our outside shots, we just couldn’t hit them.

“And we definitely didn’t get the ball to the rim.”

The Cougars’ zone took the Bull Dogs’ big men out of the game offensively, and the officials took them out defensively. Welmer and Speidel both finished with four fouls, and they could barely breathe without getting called for an infraction. Saikou Jallow led Bloomington North with 17 points, most coming on drives down the lane.

Although the Pitty Pat nature of the foul calls was being called evenly on both teams, it definitely rolled the game in Bloomington North’s favor. Welmer and Speidel were not able to challenge the Cougars guards when they drove into the paint.

“We had guys in foul trouble, and we couldn’t be as aggressive,” Welmer said. “But we definitely were in the driver’s seat and we couldn’t take advantage.”

One reason the Bull Dogs couldn’t take advantage was because they couldn’t hit a 3-pointer. Columbus North went 2 for 18 from the 3-point arc, so the Cougars never had to pull out of their packed-tight zone.

“Their 1-3 zone really got us,” Welmer said. “We just couldn’t hit shots.”

Columbus North scored 24 points in the first quarter and 25 points the rest of the game.

Speidel was a man against boys in the first half with 10 points and nine rebounds. The only reason he didn’t get a double-double in the first half was because the officiating took him out of the game. Speidel was called for his second foul at the 5:44 mark of the second quarter even though he was backing away from Bloomington North’s Grant Sims while he blocked Sims’ shot. The call itself was delayed as the Bull Dogs grabbed the ball and headed back the other way, only to be stopped by a call that put Speidel on the bench. When the Columbus North power forward did come back into the game later in the second quarter, he couldn’t challenge anyone defensively.

Speidel, who scored just two points in the second half, was called for a third foul in the opening minute of the third quarter that pretty much halted any aggressive play on his part.

Although Bloomington North won by seven points, the Cougars led just 51-49 with a little more than 30 seconds remaining. Speidel chased down a loose ball in the corner after a missed Evan Henry 3-pointer then found an opening and drove to the bucket. Although the defenders were late getting there, Speidel was called for an offensive foul upon contact and the Bull Dogs lost possession.

Bloomington North (13-8) scored the final five points of the game.

“We’ve had a lot of tough losses this season,” Speer said. “But I am proud of these players for the improvements that we’ve made. I am just disappointed this ended so suddenly here.”

Columbus North was the defending sectional champion and had won the Conference Indiana co-championship this season.

But a few minutes after the game, Welmer could only think about another game where the Bull Dogs seemed to have the game in hand before losing the lead.

“It was the story of our whole year,” Welmer said.

Even so, he will remember 43 victories the past two seasons, a sectional title and a conference co-championship.

“We’ve always had a good program here at North,” he said. “I thought we could be a state championship contender.”

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