AFTER watching Franklin Central hit 6 of 9 3-point shots in a tight first half, Columbus North coach Jason Speer urged his team to vigorously defend the 3-point line.
The Bull Dogs did just that. The Flashes hit 5 of 14 3s in the second half, but four of those made shots came in the final 3½ minutes after the game had been decided. North remained unbeaten with a 76-65 Conference Indiana win.
“We had a good halftime speech from Coach that really put some fire into us,” said junior Evan Henry, who led the Bull Dogs with 21 points. “We came out there, and we needed to stop the 3-pointers, and that’s what we did. We stopped them from shooting 3s, and we forced them to the basket into our big guys.”
When they did that, 6-foot-7 Josh Speidel and 6-8 Tori Jackson were there to turn the Flashes away. They held Franklin Central’s Tyler Malone and Jacob Malone to a combined five points.
“Franklin Central’s main players were their inside guys, and Tori and Josh just did a great job defensively tonight,” North coach Jason Speer said.
Speidel finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, and Jackson added eight points and seven rebounds. North (4-0, 1-0) also got a big lift off the bench from 6-8 junior Elliott Welmer, who went six of six from the field, including four of four from 3-point range, to score a career-high 16 points.
“I just try to come off the bench and give as much energy as possible and contribute,” Welmer said. “I always have to be ready. I just have to bring energy off the bench and help the team.”
The Bull Dogs used a 9-0 run to begin the second quarter to break a 16-16 tie. The Flashes (2-2, 0-1) cut the lead to 30-28 at halftime and tied the game in the opening seconds of the third quarter.
North’s lead was 33-32 when Henry nailed a 3-pointer to spark a 15-2 run that put the Bull Dogs in control. Welmer capped the run with the final eight points, including back-to-back 3s.
“I thought that Elliott did a great job to come in and give us a boost with his 3-point shots,” Speer said. “That got everybody energized, and we did a better job defending the 3-point line the second half.”
North led by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter. The Bull Dogs went 12 of 17 from the free-throw line in the final period to keep Franklin Central at bay.
“We practice free throws all the time and pressure free throws, and at stake is running, so that really gets into our minds,” Henry said. “When we get to game time, it feels like nothing,”
North finished nine of 19 from 3-point range.
“We honestly haven’t shot the ball well from the outside until tonight,” Speer said. “I was glad to see those guys knocking it down, from Evan Henry to Elliott Welmer to everybody that was out there shooting.”