Timely Returns: Two key Bull Dogs back on court for season’s stretch run

Although the Columbus North girls basketball team has enjoyed a little success this season, the Bull Dogs have done it mostly without two key pieces to their lineup puzzle.

Junior point guard Emma Long and freshman center Kennedy Horn each missed nine games with injuries before returning to the court in the past couple weeks. Their return comes at a good time for a 10-6 North team that is in the middle of a three-game week as it enters the stretch run of the season.

Horn came off the bench in the Bull Dogs’ first two games of the season before being elbowed in the eye in practice the following week. She sustained a concussion and wasn’t able to pass the necessary tests to return to action until the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

“It wasn’t fun because I had to sit and watch everyone else play, and I wanted to be out there,” Horn said. “I was really out of shape because I hadn’t been doing anything. I was really happy and excited to get back after being out.”

At 6-foot-2, Horn is the tallest North player and gives the Bull Dogs some size to go along with starting senior post players Kylah Lawson (5-10) and Andrea Justis (6-0).

“It definitely was a positive to get some more size and to get another person in our rotation, as well, to get our bigs a little bit of rest at times,” North coach Brett White said. “We were getting other subs in there, but not necessarily with the size that she brings.”

Long was undercut in a win at New Albany and came down on and broke her right elbow.

“That was pretty tough because our team was just starting to come together and get in a flow,” Long said. “But they battled back in New Albany and won that game. It’s been pretty tough, but I’ve had my teammates around me to support me.”

Long began practicing a couple weeks ago and was given full clearance to play Jan. 5. She sat out a loss to Jennings County the next night, but returned and scored five points in Saturday’s win against Bloomington South that clinched at least a share of the Conference Indiana title and another five points in Tuesday’s loss to Ben Davis.

“I am so excited because we’ve been talking this up for a long time,” Long said. “I’m just looking to connect back with my team and get in the flow and just get ready for sectional. I’m excited to be back on the floor and play for my team and North.”

The return of Long frees junior Lauren Barker to return to her normal shooting guard spot. Barker had been playing point guard most of the time that Long had been out.

“We’re excited about having one of our starters back,” White said. “It’s important having someone who has run the point for us. We had Lauren run the point since she’s been injured, and Lauren has done a good job with that, but this gives us more flexibility now with Emma coming back. It allows us to so some more things with Lauren, as well as some other pieces and move them around, too.”

One thing the injuries to Horn and Long did was give the Bull Dogs, who host Carmel tonight, a chance to develop a little more depth. Newcomers Kayla Jones and Hadassah Hurt saw increased action in the backcourt for North, which now can go at least 11 deep.

“That’s how we approached it when Emma got hurt,” White said. “It’s a big blow, but at the same time, it was something that was going to allow us to play some other kids in different spots and allow them to get maybe more experience than what they would have had Emma still been healthy. So we feel like in the long run, this adversity is really going to pay off for us as we head toward sectional.”