For The Republic
The Columbus North and Center Grove boys basketball teams had one final tuneup Thursday night before next week’s sectionals.
It’s the Bull Dogs that will head to the postseason with a little more momentum.
Locked in a back-and-forth battle all evening, the Bull Dogs got the final push they needed to pull away from the Trojans and secure a 52-45 nonconference victory.
Columbus North (9-13) has now won three straight heading into sectional play.
“It was a very big for us,” North coach Paul Ferguson said. “Center Grove is a very good team — well-coached. We had to execute to beat them tonight. We played the game with a lot of patience.”
North sophomore Jaylen Flemmons agreed.
“Coach always preaches to us about patience,” he said. “We have been cutting and moving the ball to find the open man.”
North junior Alex King got a steal and layup to give the Bull Dogs a 51-45 lead with 21.8 seconds left. A desperation 3 by Center Grove’s Trevor Harrell was way short and Trey Vincent knocked down an insurance free throw in the closing seconds.
North was without starting guard Nathan VanDeventer, who was out with a sprained ankle. He should be ready to go for his team’s sectional opener Tuesday against Columbus East.
VanDeventer’s absence showed a little bit early on for the Bull Dogs, as they did not establish a great offensive rhythm. The Trojans took advantage of the struggles, as they connected on their first five 3-pointers to grab an early 15-9 advantage.
Once the Bull Dogs got things clicking in the second quarter, they scored five straight points to go ahead 24-21. North only made two field goals in the quarter, but it shot 7 of 8 from the foul line to take a 26-24 lead into the half.
Flemmons led the Bull Dogs with 16 points, while Vincent finished with 13. King added eight points, with six coming in the fourth quarter.
The Trojans were led by Harrell, who finished with a game-high 17 points. Trayce Jackson-Davis had nine points and Nate McLain added eight.
During halftime of the game, a rally was held for the Columbus North girls basketball team, which will take on Penn in the 4A state championship at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Saturday night.
Center Grove will play in the opening game of the Martinsville Sectional next Tuesday against Whiteland.
The Bull Dogs hope to have Vincent available next week. He was down on the ground for a couple minutes after the buzzer sounded, and an initial diagnosis was not available at press time.