The post-Ali Patberg Era at Columbus North is about to begin, but that doesn’t mean teams are going to feel sorry for the Bull Dogs this season.
Patberg, who was named Indiana Miss Basketball after becoming North’s all-time leading scorer and leading the Bull Dogs to their first girls basketball state championship, has moved on to Notre Dame. Gone too are defensive demon Debie Gedeon (Rose-Hulman) and sharpshooter Sheyanne Street (Vincennes) from a class that went 99-9 in their four years.
“It doesn’t matter that they graduated, we have the title of defending champions,” North coach Pat McKee said. “I’m not sure our players understand how much teams are going to come at us.”
The Bull Dogs return three starters from a 28-1 team. Maliah Howard-Bass, a 5-foot-9 junior, was the team’s second-leading scorer at 9.5 points a game and earned first-team All-State honors by the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association.
Paige Littrell, a 5-10 senior, averaged 8.1 points and was a second-team ICGSA All-State selection. Elle Williams, a 6-0 senior who has committed to play at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, added 5.7 points and 5.3 rebounds in earning third-team ICGSA All-State honors.
Also returning with considerable experience is 6-4 junior Imani Guy (5.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg), who will step into a starting role this season.
North received a huge boost this summer when Ashlyn Huffman transferred from Franklin Central. The 5-5 junior was a two-year starter and All-Conference Indiana player for the Flashes, averaging 11.1 points last year. She will handle most of the point guard responsibilities, with Howard-Bass helping out.
“Ashlyn is a very good player,” McKee said. “She played really well in June when she joined us. One thing we’re trying to get her to do is shoot more. She’s a pass-first kid.”
Emily Kim (1.6 ppg), a 5-6 senior who saw plenty of varsity action last season, will likely be first player off the bench.
“Those six are an easy top six to pick,” McKee said. “After that, 7-8-9-10, it changes every day.”
One player in that group is 5-10 freshman Nadia Lomax. Back from last year’s tournament roster are 5-7 senior Amy Weisner, 6-0 sophomore Kat Norman, 5-9 sophomore Liz Tynan, 5-10 sophomore Jenna Borger, 5-6 sophomore Kenzie Patberg and 5-7 sophomore Kelsey Patberg.
“We have good players, and we have moments that are really good,” McKee said. “But we make mistakes, and the idea is to have as few of them as possible. We just have to work at it, understand the details of what we’re trying to do offensively and defensively both individually and as a unit.”
McKee realizes that with another loaded schedule, the Bull Dogs’ margin for error isn’t as great as it was with Ali Patberg and the other graduated players.
“Those kids did things collectively that in some cases would cover up mistakes,” McKee said. “We could overcome it because they were so good at other things. This year, I think we can be really good, but this year we’ll pay for those kind of mistakes.”
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The 2015-16 Columbus North girls basketball schedule:
Tuesday;at New Albany;7:30 p.m.
Nov. 20;at Franklin Central;7:30 p.m.
Nov. 28;Lawrence North at State Fairgrounds;noon
Dec. 5;Terre Haute South;2:30 p.m.
Dec. 8;at Greenwood;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 10;at East Central;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 15;Seymour;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 17;Columbus East;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 19;at Terre Haute North;2:30 p.m.
Dec. 29-30;Columbus North Tournament;TBA
Jan. 2;Perry Meridian;2:30 p.m.
Jan. 5;Jennings County;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 7;at Southport;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 9;at Franklin County (Kentucky);noon
Jan. 12;Franklin;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 16;Bloomington South;2:30 p.m.
Jan. 19;at Heritage Christian;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 22;at Bloomington North;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 26;at Whiteland;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 28;Roncalli;7:30 p.m.