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Undefeated Stars too much for Columbus North

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BEDFORD — It was 16 gruesome minutes the Columbus North girls would like to erase from an otherwise glorious basketball season.

The Bull Dogs couldn’t make shots. Bedford North Lawrence, it seemed, couldn’t miss.

The scenario resulted in a 21-point halftime lead for the host Stars on Saturday afternoon. After withstanding a spirited North comeback at the start of the second half, the Stars went on to claim a 71-45 victory in a regional semifinal showdown of unbeatens before a near-capacity crowd of 6,300.

“We did a lot of things well,” North coach Pat McKee said. “Obviously, we didn’t do enough of them well. Bedford did everything well, and they clearly played better. Clearly, Bedford had a plan and executed it so well, and it’s my fault. The loss is all on me.”

While the Class 4A No. 2 Stars (25-0) were hitting 15 of 27 shots in the first half, the top-ranked Bull Dogs (25-1) went only 4 of 29 in the opening 16 minutes, mostly against a BNL zone.

“We kind of felt that we had to because they do such a great job with their dribble-drive offense that they run,” BNL coach Kurt Godlevske said. “They get you going and running, and we were just try to find any way we could during this week of preparation to try to slow them down. As the game went on, we saw that it was effective, so we just kind of stayed with it.”

The first 2½ minutes went well for North, which led 3-2 on an Ali Patberg 3-pointer and 6-4 on a Kelsey Cunningham three-point play. But then the Stars went on a 10-0 run to open a 16-6 lead. The Bull Dogs were within 22-13 early in the second quarter, but a 13-0 BNL run pushed the lead to 35-13 with 3:49 left in the first half.

Trailing 38-17 at the break, North came out with a renewed intensity to begin the second half. A 3-pointer by Hanna Ballard, a basket by Hannah Poindexter and a 3 by Tayler Goodall cut it to 38-25. Then after a Stars basket, Ballard scored twice, and Patberg made a free throw to make it 40-30 with 3:05 left in the third quarter.

North had three chances to cut the lead to single digits, but couldn’t convert. Still, the Bull Dogs were within 48-34 with 7:15 left in the game, but a 9-0 BNL run put it away.

“Those kids aren’t quitters, and we knew that,” Godlevske said. “Pat’s a wonderful coach, and we knew that he would have something because they weren’t going to give up and quit. They made that big run at us, but our kids dug in and held their own.”

“The game wasn’t over,” said Patberg, who led North with 13 points. “We have a lot of heart, and we can’t give up. We just had to keep going, and we tried. It was partly my fault when we got (within) 10. We should have attacked it more.”

Sophomores Jenna Allen and Alexa Bailey, who was playing on the court that bears her father Damon’s name, each scored 20 points to lead BNL. The 6-foot-3 Allen grabbed 14 rebounds, and 6-2 sophomore Dominique McBryde had 12 to lead the much-taller Stars to a 48-36 advantage on the boards.

“I thought our kids understood what they needed to do, and then they went out and did it at a very high level,” Godlevske said.

“The start of the third quarter was really good,” McKee said. “We did a lot of great things there, and really, even in the first half, it’s not like we played terrible. We did a number of good things, but on the offensive end we didn’t finish by making shots. On the defensive end, much of the first half, we did what we wanted, and yet Bedford found a way to make a contested shot, or they moved the ball one more pass, and the person was open and made the shot.”

BNL went on to beat No. 9 Franklin Central 58-51 in Saturday night’s regional championship to advance to semi-state.

Goodall finished with nine points and 11 rebounds for the Bull Dogs. Ballard, the team’s lone senior, had nine points and seven rebounds.

“We weren’t on our game, and they’re a great team,” Patberg said. “We just have to get back at it on Monday (for next year). We just have to work hard.”

“I can’t say enough about our girls,” McKee said. “They’re a fabulous group as a group and individually, and if there’s any issue today, it’s because I didn’t do a good enough job preparing them.”

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