BLOOMINGTON — If Columbus North was having any doubts it could compete with some of the best teams in the state, let alone its sectional opponents, those might have been erased Friday night.
Without injured stars Josh Speidel and Trent Larson, the Bull Dogs competed well in a 64-55 loss to host Bloomington South despite a cold shooting night.
Bloomington South, which now appears to be the sectional favorite, took command early, but North fought back. The Panthers will host the sectional next month.
“That’s just proving that we can still play with anyone when we’re inspired and playing for Josh,” said North senior guard Kooper Glick, who led North with 24 points, eight rebounds and three steals. “Even if we don’t shoot well, I think we can get it done still, even on their home court.”
The Bull Dogs (14-5, 4-2 Conference Indiana) shot only 16-of-39 from the field and 18-of-29 from the free-throw line. Yet they hung in the game, thanks to an uncharacteristic eight second-half turnovers by Bloomington South (15-2, 5-1), which is ranked No. 8 in Class 4A.
“South was shooting the ball extremely well early,” North coach Jason Speer said. “They played well early, and I thought we played well late. We were doing everything right in the third and the fourth quarter, except our shots weren’t falling. We were still stringing stops together. We just weren’t making free throws.”
South’s Tucker Blackwell scored 16 points as the Panthers jumped out to a 20-7 lead after one quarter. Blackwell finished 7-of-8 from 3-point range and scored a game-high 29 points.
After that first quarter, the Bull Dogs outscored Bloomington South by four points. North outscored the Panthers by eight in the second half after falling behind 33-16 at the break.
“That was our goal — we wanted to win the second half,” Speer said. “We know we’re better than 16 points at halftime. The kids responded and did a great job.”
“I think we were playing slow and didn’t know what the environment was going to be like,” Glick said. “We knew it was a hostile environment, and in the second half we embraced it and we started playing better.”
The Bull Dogs began the second half on a 12-2 run to cut the lead to 35-28. Bloomington South answered with a 13-2 spurt to push the lead back to 48-30, but North chipped away at the lead until getting it down to single digits.
“They kept battling back,” Bloomington South coach J.R. Holmes said. “They played extremely hard. I’m sure they’re playing with a lot of emotion with their situation. You have to give them credit for not giving up when it could have happened a couple of times there when it got ready to explode on them.”
Alex King, Marquis Humes and freshman Trey Vincent all scored eight points for the Bull Dogs. Mitchell Kelley had three assists.
“Everybody’s role has changed,” Speer said. “You’re talking about subs that were playing in the eighth grade last year and were on the JV team last week. There’s not a more difficult place to win than Bloomington South, so those guys did a tremendous job.
“All the seniors are doing a great job for those freshmen,” he said. “Marquis Humes made plays. Mitchell Kelley did a tremendous job defensively. He got his hand on a lot of basketballs. That was really promising to see us get most of those 50-50 balls.”
Just as Hamilton Southeastern did in Tuesday’s game with North, the Bloomington South players and coaches wore blue and white warmup T-shirts with “Speidel” and the number 32 on the back. Holmes, who is also the Panthers’ athletics director, said the school had raised $800 for the Speidel family at two girls games this week and paid $300 for the shirts. Donations were also taken at Friday’s game.
“I told our kids we didn’t know how they were going to come out after having two days now and getting this thing with Josh not behind them, but the perspective that he’s not going to be there, so everybody was going to have to step up,” Holmes said.