Balanced Bull Dogs bounce Trojans to close regular season

For most of the boys basketball season, Blake Barker and Nick Schiavello have carried much of the scoring load for Columbus North.

In Thursday night’s regular season finale, the Bull Dogs used a score-by-committee approach. Six players finished with between eight and 13 points, and North cruised to a 62-44 win against Center Grove.

"We pushed the ball in transition, and we played really well as a team," said freshman Cooper Horn, who came off the bench to match his career-high with 13. "We moved the ball. Everyone was scoring. No one was worrying about who was getting the ball or who was scoring. If we play like that, we’re pretty dangerous."

The Bull Dogs (18-5), who have a week off before playing in the North Sectional semifinals against the winner between Class 4A No. 1 Bloomington South and Columbus East, led from start to finish. They jumped out to a 7-0 lead and enjoyed a 13-2 advantage after one quarter.

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"I loved our start," North coach Paul Ferguson said. "I thought we had great intensity. We had a focus tonight to rebound the basketball, and I just thought from the beginning of the game to the end, we did a great job on the glass. That was a key for us. We knew we had to win the battle on the glass, and our guys brought that tonight."

The Bull Dogs extended the lead to 17-5 a half-minute into the second quarter, but then the Trojans (7-14) came to life. Center Grove hit four 3-pointers in a 14-4 run to get back within 21-19.

"We had a couple breakdowns defensively in the second (quarter)," Ferguson said. "We gave up three 3s in a matter of about two minutes. One of them was, we did a possession of zone, and Center Grove did a nice job of screening it. Then on two of them, we just didn’t quite get out quick enough, and they’re a team that shoots a lot of 3s. That’s a big part of their offense. But then I thought we rebounded from that and did a pretty good job of adjusting to what they were doing offensively."

North led 28-23 at halftime.

"We were excited about the fact that they battled through a little bit of that adversity," Center Grove coach Zach Hahn said. "But at the end of the day, Columbus North is a good team. They executed their stuff better than we did, and the bad starts put us in a really bad position. It’s hard to dig your way out when you’re struggling to score the ball."

The Bull Dogs built the lead to 40-33 after three quarters before pulling away in the fourth. They led by as big as 62-40 with a minute to play before the Trojans scored the final four points.

"It’s always big to win your last game of the regular season," said Schiavello, who scored 10 points. "This will give us a lot of momentum going into the tournament, and hopefully we can build off this next Friday night."

Barker added nine points for the Bull Dogs. Reese Harmon, Jakub Trusina and Casper Clark all scored eight.

"That’s unbelievable balance," Ferguson said. "I was thrilled with how we played with how we played that way. We just try to preach ball movement because when you move the ball like that, you’re hard to guard."