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If you have lived a little, you might not understand today’s world of high school girls basketball.
I don’t mean the X’s and O’s. You might well be another Adolph Rupp or even Phil Jackson.
I’m talking about how girls all around the country and especially right here in the Midwest have embraced the sport.
Columbus North girls coach Pat McKee got the Subway/Columbus North Invitational rolling as a way to present his team with learning opportunities that would make the Bull Dogs better when it comes playoff time.
Area high school basketball fans get an added benefit. The tournament’s quality field showcases the very best of the sport, which has made significant, positive strides over the past 30 years.
Thirty years ago, I remember covering certain high school girls games where the officials couldn’t officiate. If they called traveling, the game would disintegrate with an infraction or two every possession.
Unless your daughter was on the team, it was impossible to enjoy. I’m certainly not talking about all teams, but a good percentage of them.
Now, with the exception of the above-the-rim type of athleticism you find in the boys game, the girls game is very comparable to the opposite gender. If you have wondered whether you could enjoy the girls game, the North tournament is a good chance to find out.
Before going, note that the Columbus girls shoot 45 percent from the field, while the North boys (a terrific team) shoot 47 percent. The Bull Dogs girls hit 40 percent of their 3s, while the boys are dropping 29 percent. The North boys are better at the free-throw line (68 to 61 percent).
Columbus North (8-1) faces Chaminade-Julienne of Ohio (6-5) at 6 p.m. today in North’s Gym 1. Notre Dame Academy of Kentucky (5-2) plays Richmond (6-3) in Gym 2.
At 7:45 p.m., Roncalli (8-1) meets Evansville Mater Dei (7-0) in Gym 1, while at the same time Rufus King of Milwaukee (2-3) challenges Mishawaka (9-2) in Gym 2.
Action resumes at 10 a.m. Saturday (Chaminade-Julienne vs. the Notre Dame-Richmond loser in Gym 1 and Evansville Mater Dei vs. Rufus King-Mishawaka loser in Gym 2). North faces the winner of Notre Dame-Richmond at approximately 11:45 a.m. in Gym 1, while Roncalli plays the winner of Rufus King-Mishawaka at 11:45 a.m. in Gym 2. Consolations finals will be at 3:30 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. in Gym 1, with the championship game at 7 p.m. in Gym 1.
Tickets are $5 per game, $8 for all day Saturday or $12 for the two-day tournament.
Columbus North is the tournament’s defending champion, and it would be safe to say four of the team’s current starters will play college basketball as scholarship athletes, while a few other players on the roster have similar shots down the line.
Seniors Tayler Goodall (Florida Gulf Coast) and Kelsey Cunningham (UW-Milwaukee) and junior Ali Patberg (Notre Dame) already have verbally committed to their college choices. Sophomore Paige Littrell, who averages 8.8 points and 49 percent from behind the 3-point arc, is bound to get offers.
Depth has made North one of the top teams in the state and also is the reason that the sport is thriving today as opposed to earlier versions.
“Twenty years ago Stephanie White was light years ahead of everybody,” McKee said of White, who was the 1995 Indiana Miss Basketball at Seeger High School in West Lebanon. She went on to play at Purdue and for the Indiana Fever.
“I don’t know that Ali Patberg is better than Stephanie White was. The very best players were comparable to the very best players of today.
“But one of the reasons we are so good is not only the stars, but we have many good, solid players.”
Indeed, the depth of talent today is impressive. And if you want to make a run at a state title, you had better face a bunch of great teams before the postseason tourney begins.
“We were thinking postseason,” McKee said of his strategy of putting together the Subway/Columbus North Tournament field. “We wanted to get quality teams in the tournament, teams that will throw different styles at us.”
When North started the tournament last year, the thought was to make it an annual event.
“That’s our intention,” McKee said. “This is a good basketball community, and we get good support from our administration. We’re trying to build a real program here.”
With three games in two days, the tournament will prepare teams for possible regional appearances, when they might have to play two games on the same day.
“Trying to replicate that during the season is a real plus,” McKee said. “If you get to that position, you feel that you’ve done it before. It can be a mental confidence builder.
“But all things being equal, we’ve worked so hard in conditioning, we’re usually in better shape than somebody else is.”
Talent, high-intensity basketball, great conditioning, it’s all on display over the next two days in the North Invitational. It’s a whole new world you might want to visit.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.
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