Second-Half Surge: Bull Dogs rally in final 16 minutes to overcome Panthers

After watching his team fall behind Jennings County at halftime Friday night, Columbus North coach Paul Ferguson told the Bull Dogs they needed to be more aggressive in the second half.

North took the message to heart. The Bull Dogs used a 13-2 run midway through the third quarter to take control and went on to post a 58-52 win in the season opener for the Panthers.

“We just told them we were going to have to grind out a win,” Ferguson said. “We were going to have to do a better job guarding their 3-point shooters. Jennings is a very physical team, and they were getting a lot of guys on the offensive glass and we knew we were going to have to block out and win some 50-50 balls down the stretch, and that’s what we did. We got tough defensively, got a few big rebounds and then finished some plays at the other end.”

North (2-0) trailed 26-22 at halftime and 28-23 early in the third quarter. That’s when Carson Dibble and Ty Ferguson hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Bull Dogs their first lead since the first quarter.

Jennings regained the led on a basket by Jacob Vogel, but a basket by Sam King, a 3-pointer from Luke Harmon and a basket from Dibble gave North a 36-30 advantage.

“We switched our defense up to man, which I think really caught them off guard, and it helped our offense get going more with deflections and turnovers,” Dibble said. “Things started clicking. We played well together and came out with a ‘W.’”

The Panthers came back to cut the lead to 41-40 going into the fourth quarter. They were within 53-52 after a basket by Keegan Manowitz with 1:58 remaining, but Dibble hit a basket, Jennings missed a pair of 3-pointers and the Bull Dogs got two free throws from Dibble and one from Harmon to ice it.

“We shot the ball well in the first half,” Jennings coach Josh Land said. “I thought we rebounded the ball well in the first half. The second half, we let King get some easy ones. He got some putbacks on us. I didn’t think we had very good help when they threw him the ball inside. We didn’t double him. He hurt us inside for sure in the second half.”

King finished with game-highs of 19 points and seven rebounds. Dibble added 13 points and six rebounds, and Ty Ferguson had 11 points and Cooper Horn contributed nine points for the Bull Dogs.

“I think we had a lot more energy the second half,” King said. “We were more patient with the ball. We got better looks, and we started knocking down shots, and that just kind of started our little run.”

Owen Law led Jennings with 16 points and six rebounds. Carter Kent and Manowitz each added 11 points.

“This is one game in the process,” Land said. “We want to be playing for a sectional title on March 5, 2022, so Nov. 26 doesn’t worry me too much. We’ll come back to practice and watch film on Monday and move on. That’s all we can do.”

North, which opened its season with a win against Heritage Christian on Tuesday, is back in action tonight at home against Seymour.

“We’re glad we get to play three games this week,” Paul Ferguson said. “I think we’ll learn a lot about our team, what our strengths and weaknesses are. We learned tonight a little bit more about ourselves. We’ll have a scout (today) and hopefully have our best game of the week (tonight).”