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INDIANAPOLIS — Columbus North boys basketball coach Jason Speer played the percentages, and his Bull Dogs made him look like a genius.
Leading by three points with 2.6 seconds remaining, Speer opted to foul Franklin Central rather than risk allowing a game-tying 3-pointer. The Bull Dogs fouled Lucas Huffman, who made the front end of the one-and-one with one second left, then missed the second on purpose, but Josh Speidel grabbed the rebound, and North held on for a 59-57 Conference Indiana win.
“The percentages are there,” Speer said. “If you foul with a three-point lead, it makes it tough for them to make a 3-point shot.”
The Bull Dogs (3-0, 1-0) led by as many as nine midway through the third quarter, and played most of the game with a one- to five-point advantage. They led 57-53 in the fourth-quarter when Huffman converted a three-point play with 2:10 remaining to cut the lead to one.
After the Flashes (3-1, 0-1) got the ball back and missed a shot, North went to a delay. Franklin Central still had three fouls to give, but by the time it sent Evan Henry to the free-throw line, only 27 seconds remained.
Henry converted both free throws to make it 59-56. Huffman missed a 28-footer, and Henry rebounded and was fouled. On the other end, though, he missed the front end of a one-and-one with three seconds left. The Flashes rebounded and called timeout with 2.6 seconds remaining, setting up the foul against Huffman on the in-bounds pass.
“They hit a lot of shots to keep it close, but we had a collective effort for 32 minutes offensively and defensively,” Speer said. “We executed the game plan and were there at the end to pull it out.”
The Bull Dogs were playing Franklin Central for the first time since a 15-point upset loss in the Seymour Regional in March.
“We had a little vengeance out there, but we just wanted to go out there and play our game,” said forward Elliott Welmer, who led North with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Welmer, at 6-foot-9, combined with the 6-8 Speidel to control the inside against the smaller Flashes.
“I was getting good passes from my teammates, and I was proud of how we did tonight,” Welmer said. “It was a tough game. It was a loud gym, but we came out and played our best and got the victory.”
Trent Larson, playing in only his third varsity game, went 4-of-6 from 3-point range and finished with a career-high 16 points for the Bull Dogs. His final 3 with 6:39 remaining broke a 46-46 tie and gave North the lead for good.
“I was nervous,” Larson said. “With Kooper Glick being out (with a sprained ankle), we needed to step up, and that’s what we did. I knew I was going to have to pick up my game. We just came out here and performed.”
With Glick sidelined, only six players saw action for the Bull Dogs. Henry finished with 12 points for North, which outrebounded Franklin Central 27-17.
“It was a complete team win for us – maybe as good as what we’ve had in a long time,” Speer said. “Franklin Central is an incredible basketball team. They did what they had to do to keep it close, and it was a great basketball game tonight.”
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