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INDIANAPOLIS — Columbus North junior forward Josh Speidel said it best.
“That Cathedral defense made us uncomfortable,” he said following the Bull Dogs’ 70-66 overtime victory over the Fighting Irish in the Tip-Off Classic at Southport Fieldhouse.
Cathedral’s defense made North’s players, coaches and fans uncomfortable.
After North had taken a 54-39 lead toward the end of the third quarter, it appeared the Bull Dogs (4-0) were about to blow out last year’s 4A state runner-up.
But Cathedral coach Andy Fagan went to a gambling, trapping defense in the fourth quarter and North had no answers.
With Cathedral guard Justin Baker (a game-high 32 points) continuing his offensive assault, North’s lead started to dwindle. Even so, North still had a 60-50 lead with 2:32 remaining after guard Evan Henry, who led North with 26 points, hit a pair of free throws.
North scored one point the rest of the way while turning over the ball five times in the final two minutes.
With 19.8 seconds remaining, Cathedral guard Tra Landers had a chance to put his team ahead but hit just one of two from the line for a 61-61 tie.
North almost won in regulation, but forward Josh Speidel, who had 22 points, saw his floater from eight feet spin out.
With Cathedral (1-2) holding the momentum, North’s defense dominated the overtime, shutting down Baker and holding him to one point. The Bull Dogs went 5 of 6 on their free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
“We’re going to learn a lot from this one,” said Speidel, who dominated inside with 10 rebounds. “I know coach (Jason Speer) will draw up some great plays for us.”
Speer said that Cathedral simply played some great defensive basketball down the stretch.
“A lot of that just was Cathedral’s pressure,” Speer said. “They were extremely quick. It had less to do with what we were doing and everything to do with Cathedral. I don’t think we will see two better defensive teams than we played the last two nights.”
North downed Franklin Central 59-57 on Friday night.
“Going into this weekend, I didn’t know if we could win either game,” Speer said. “I knew that we would get better.”
Henry said North’s “toughness” got the team through when it seemed all the momentum was in Cathedral’s favor.
“We let them back in it,” Henry said. “They sent guys at us from everywhere. But I do think now we will recognize things better.”
North built its lead by dominating the paint and forcing most of Cathedral’s shots to come from the outside. When North started turning over the ball, Cathedral capitalized with its transition game and the ability of its guards to drive.
Even though North almost failed to close the deal, the No. 3-ranked Bull Dogs had reason to celebrate after beating the state’s No. 4-ranked team.
Speidel didn’t care whether it took overtime or not.
“It felt great to be able to beat this team,” Speidel said.
North senior forward Elliott Welmer finished with 12 points and six rebounds.
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