For eight minutes at Columbus North’s Memorial Gymnasium Tuesday night, it should have been obvious to all just how far East Central coach Kevin Moore has advanced the Trojan program in his three-plus years at the Sunman-Dearborn school.
“I was sure was happy for a quarter tonight,” said Moore, smiling after his team lost for only the third time in 14 games.
Trailing by a scant one point to the state’s No. 1-ranked team, East Central’s progress was suddenly put on hold when the host Bull Dogs turned up the heat on the defensive end. The Trojans never recovered.
Limiting the visitors to four points in the second quarter, North quickly built its lead and never looked back in decisively whipping the visitors 64-42.
The victory for the undefeated Bull Dogs was No. 17. And the result was the 19th victory in 19 tries for North in its series with East Central.
“We certainly have improved, but we are still far from North’s level,” said Moore, who gave all of the credit for the outcome to North’s defense.
“At one point in the second quarter, we had taken four shots and turned the ball over nine times,” he said. “It was a mental breakdown for us. They mixed up their pressure and made us have to think. North just ground us up.”
North led at halftime 31-19 and 53-29 at the end of the third quarter. During the 16-minute span, East Central managed 16 shots and committed 15 turnovers. According to North’s Ali Patberg, defense is a matter of pride.
“They stayed with us for a quarter, and coach (Pat McKee) was pretty upset,” said the Bull Dog sophomore. “Our defense has kind of been going up and down, and he emphasized that we can’t be inconsistent.”
Moore’s praise of North’s defense was long and clear.
“North grinds on you and grinds on you,” he explained. “They don’t allow anything easy. “We have a 6-foot-2 post player that hardly touched the ball tonight. That was because of the kind of pressure they put on us on the perimeter.”
However, Allie McCool — East Central’s tall freshman center –- still scored nine points and pulled down 11 rebounds to lead the Trojans. But her output was no match for North’s balance.
Senior Hanna Ballard and juniors Tayler Goodall and Kelsey Cunningham all scored 11 points for North, while Patberg added nine points. Ballard and Cunningham each grabbed seven rebounds.
The Bull Dogs won the rebounding battle 30-23.
After leading by only 10 early in the third quarter, North went on a 19-2 offensive tear to build a 52-25 lead.
“They can be a team of runs,” Moore said of North. “They hit you for long periods. And they do it with great depth. Everyone knows how good Patberg and Goodall are. But there isn’t much dropoff after them. From players 3 though 8, North’s skill level is very high.”
East Central attempted to face-guard both Patberg and Goodall. For the most part, the defensive tactics limited the scoring stats of the North duo.
“But that’s why I have great teammates for,” said Patberg, who along with Goodall made several basket-leading passes.
And East Central may have paid a price for the effort expended on the defensive end.
“We got very tired from chasing those two around and that may have affected us on the offensive end,” Moore said.