If history is any indication — last year notwithstanding — tonight’s Columbus North at Columbus East girls basketball game will go down to the wire.
Prior to the 2011-12 season, seven of the teams’ previous nine meetings either went to overtime or were decided by four points or fewer. Last season, the Bull Dogs unloaded on the Olympians twice, including 66-25 in the sectional championship game.
“Historically, they play well against us,” North coach Pat McKee said. “Last year in the sectional game, it wasn’t their best game; but that was an aberration. We know that they’re far better than they showed that day.”
The Bull Dogs went on to win regional and semi-state titles and finish as the Class 4A state runner-up. They’ve carried that success over to this season. They’re 8-0 and ranked No. 1 in the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association all-class poll.
North, however, is coming off its worst game of the season, a 40-39 win over Lawrence Central on Saturday.
“We have stretches of good play and stretches that could be better, and we’re trying to extend the stretches of good play,” McKee said.
East, meanwhile, is 5-3. The Olympians were 5-1 before falling to Jeffersonville and Bloomington North.
“We could have won both of those games,” East coach Danny Brown said. “We could be sitting here at 6-2, or we could easily be sitting here at 2-6, but we’re 5-3 and pretty satisfied with the results so far.
“I’m pretty satisfied with the way we’re playing,” Brown said. “We’ve played some strong competition. We’re getting a lot of kids playing time that probably wouldn’t have gotten it with all the injuries that we’ve had.”
The Olympians are missing junior Allyson Bunch, who led them with more than 20 points a game last year but tore an ACL this summer. Senior Mikala Lomax, who missed the final 20 games of last season with a torn ACL, and junior Katie Ritenour, who tore an ACL this summer, are back.
Lomax leads East with 12.5 points and 8.3 rebounds a game, while freshman Audrey Wetzel adds 10.6 points and 8.0 rebounds. Juniors Hunter (3.6 assists), Molly Macy (3.7 steals) and Sarah Loesch (1.9 blocks) also contribute.
“(Lomax is) very good, and we’ll be aware of her,” McKee said. “Audrey Wetzel has had a good start to the year. Courtney Hunter has had a couple good games, and Ritenour is back now.
“Two years ago, they beat us twice, and they have some kids back from those groups,” he said. “It’s a rivalry game for them. They’re well coached. They know what they want to do, and they execute it well. We have to be ready to play.”
Sophomore Ali Patberg leads the Bull Dogs with 21.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.5 blocks a game. Junior Tayler Goodall adds 10.8 points and 5.8 rebounds, and junior Kelsey Cunningham averages 7.4 points and 3.4 steals.
“I’m not concerned about last year,” Brown said. “I’m concerned about our team right now and just being able to handle pressure and execute on offense. I’ve never really concerned myself with the other team. I’ve always concerned myself with my team, and that’s no different this time around.”
North forced 23 turnovers in last year’s regular-season meeting and 18 in the sectional game, with East committing nine turnovers in the first quarter of both contests. The Bull Dogs made a 17-0 run in the first quarter of the regular-season matchup and a 26-0 spurt in the first quarter of the sectional battle.
“We have to be able to handle full-court pressure and move the ball and have good spacing to where we can execute our offense,” Brown said. “We just have to execute our press-breaker, and we have to execute our offense once we get it there.”