Making Adjustments / Bull Dogs pull away from Panthers in second half to notch first win

NORTH VERNON — Jennings County did a good job at keeping the Columbus North a bit off balance during Friday night’s boys basketball contest.

As the game progressed, Bull Dogs made the adjustments necessary to earn their first win of the season, a 71-62 victory over the Panthers.

Blake Barker and Reese Harmon played major roles in the second half. Barker scored 20 of his game-high 26 points in the final two quarters, and Harmon finished with 17 points to lead North’s scoring.

“I think defensively was our change, and offensively actually, but we really picked it up on the defensive end,” Barker said of the second-half adjustment. “It allowed us to transition and get more offensive buckets, get our offense going, and then we ran some longer possessions and that got us going.”

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

Barker was held scoreless in the first quarter, but was defended by one of the Panthers top defensive players in Trey Wilson. Wilson eventually got into foul trouble, which opened the door for Barker to get into his rhythm.

“Trey had a really tough matchup tonight, and that’s what I told him in the locker room — that it was going to be one of his toughest matchups all year,” Jennings coach Josh Land said. “I thought we did a really good job of containing people early, but as the game wore on, (Barker) did a great job of keeping the ball in his hands and getting to the rim.”

The Bull Dogs (1-1) got off to an early 9-4 start to the game, but Jennings, which was playing its season opener, came back to tie the game at 9-9 with just over a minute left in the first quarter. The Panthers took the lead when Keegan Manowitz delivered an assist inside to Lane Zohrlaut, and Wilson added a field goal in the final seconds of the opening quarter for a 13-9 lead.

Jennings secured its biggest lead of the game at 24-16 following a 3-pointer from Carson McNulty, but then North slowly cut into the deficit. Barker scored six of the team’s 12 points in a 12-2 run to tie the game at 28-28.

Zohrlaut put the Panthers back ahead 30-28 with under a minute left in the half. North’s Sam King was then fouled on a shot attempt at the buzzer, and he converted on the free throws to tie the game at 30-30 at the break.

It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when the Bull Dogs put away the game for good. With just over six minutes left in the game and the score tied at 46-46, Harmon rolled in the go-ahead layup. Harmon then converted a 3-point basket, and then Barker converted 3 of 4 free throws to make it 54-46.

“We felt like we played soft defensively in the first half,” North coach Paul Ferguson said. “Our guys responded really well to our challenge at halftime and came out and played a much better second half.”

Ferguson said a key factor in the win was the free-throw shooting. In Tuesday’s season-opening loss at No. 2-ranked Carmel, the Bull Dogs shot 11 of 20 from the line. Friday, North was 25 of 34 from the charity stripe.

“We’ve been working on our free-throw shooting the last couple of days,” Ferguson said. “We’re still not where we want to be yet. We’d like to be above 75 percent, but improvement in that area was crucial for tonight.”

Manowitz finished with a team-high 17 points and seven assists and McNulty added 14 points for Jennings. Jacob Vogel grabbed 14 rebounds.