NOBLESVILLE— Executing at the free-throw line can often times be the difference between winning or losing a basketball game, and Columbus North proved that on Friday against New Albany in the third-place game of the Noblesville Holiday tournament.
North shot 15-of-15 on the way to defeating a tough New Albany team 64-61 to place third out of eight teams. North coach Paul Ferguson said it was the best game his team has played this season after losing 48-45 on a buzzer beater against Noblesville early in the day.
“To be able to bounce back and play against a program like New Albany that’s won a lot of games in the last couple of years,” Ferguson said. “And come out and play really, really well and then finish a game by going 15-of-15 from the line, that’s what I’m most proud about.”
Blake Barker and Nicholas Schiavello combined for 50 of North’s 64 points with 25 points each. Barker scored on 8 free-throws while Schiavello knocked down all four of his free-throws in the final quarter.
Neither team could break away in the first half, having five ties and five lead changes in the first two quarters. North (8-3) held a slim 31-29 lead at halftime, but that was quickly erased once the third quarter started.
New Albany (5-7) opened the quarter with a 7-0 run to take the lead and held it for most of the second half. North committed seven third-quarter turnovers and trailed by as many as 10 points. Columbus only scored three field goals the entire quarter, but the team’s confidence never wavered.
“What was going through my mind was we’ve been in that situation before multiple times throughout the season,” Barker said. “I felt we still had the confidence. We knew we were going to come back and win. We knew that we had come from deficits like that before. We just kept grinding.”
North cut the New Albany lead to six by the start of the fourth quarter and continued to grind away. Columbus settled down offensively and drew enough fouls to put the team in the bonus with more than half a quarter remaining.
North trailed 58-53 with less than four minutes left when it went on a 7-0 run to take its first lead of the half with 1:30 left on the clock. A few solid defensive possessions, including the Barker steal that tied the game with 2:15 remaining helped Columbus go on its run.
It also helped that both Barker and Schiavello knocked down four free-throws a piece in the final quarter. North held New Albany to just four free-throw attempts for the entire game.
“Credit to our guys making big free-throws under pressure,” Ferguson said. “Especially in the fourth quarter when they had to foul.”
North did a solid job of playing keep away which forced New Albany to foul late. North held a 60-58 lead with 1:09 left when the offensive patience and ball movement took 46 seconds off the clock and Barker was fouled with just under 24 seconds remaining.
New Albany’s Tucker Biven scored his only points of the game with a 3-point shot after Barker’s free-throws that cut the North lead to 62-61 with 13 seconds left. Schiavello was fouled in the double bonus on the next possession and scored on both free-throws to push the lead back to three with nine seconds left.
New Albany had a shot at a game-tying 3-pointer and it missed off the rim. North players and coaches were pretty fired up after the win.
“It’s a big win and we played hard,” Schiavello said. “It just shows the fight and grit all of our guys have. We never give up. We’re always going to play hard and I think we can really build off of this and have a strong second half of the season.”
Columbus relied heavily on Barker and Schiavello throughout the tournament. They averaged a combined 43.5 points in the two wins against Andrean and New Albany. Schiavello also led the team with 16 points in the Noblesville loss.
“They came up here and played big time basketball against some really good players,” Ferguson said of Schiavello and Barker. “They were taking it to some of those New Albany guys. That’s an amazing performance by those two guys.”