The Class 4A No. 3 Columbus North girls basketball team jumped on Whiteland early and never let up, cruising to a 57-27 road victory Tuesday night.
The Bull Dogs (16-2) began the game with a 7-0 run before the Warriors got on the board with 4:32 remaining in the first quarter. Columbus North extended the lead to 13-4, and then ended the quarter on a 10-0 run.
By halftime, the lead was up to 38-9. Columbus North hit 16 of 28 shots in the half (57.1 percent) and was led by guard Ali Patberg. The junior scored 16 of her game-high 20 points in the opening 16 minutes.
On defense, Columbus North’s zone press forced 17 first-half turnovers by Whiteland, keeping the Warriors from ever getting comfortable on the offensive end. And when a shot was missed, the Bull Dogs more often than not grabbed it. They gathered 22 first-half rebounds to only 11 for Whiteland.
Columbus North coach Pat McKee said the goal against Whiteland was to continue to sharpen an already potent attack.
“I thought there were certain segments of the game where we executed well, and certain segments of the game where we could refine and be a little better,” McKee said.
“You’re never going to be perfect. But executing consistently well so that it becomes instinct so that when we play the really tough opponents we’re doing the right thing there, too.”
With three games remaining on their regular-season schedule, all against teams that are at .500 or below, McKee said it was a terrific opportunity for the Bull Dogs to make sure they are firing on all cylinders when sectionals begin.
“We did a couple new things tonight. But I’d say it’s really more about fine-tuning the things we do consistently, and if we can identify a new wrinkle that can be thrown in, great.”
Whiteland played better in the second half. They outscored Columbus North 11-10 in the third quarter, something coach Kyle Shipp was pleased with.
“We measure everything by our attitude and effort, and I think that was there tonight,” Shipp said. “We played hard, we actually won the third quarter and were right there in the fourth quarter. There were a lot of positives, especially in the second half.”
He said despite the final score, playing Columbus North was an excellent learning experience for the young Warriors.
“We felt like it was an opportunity to play a team that was really, really good and make sure we get better at the things we do,” he said.
Patberg, who sat out the fourth quarter, grabbed a game-high nine rebounds to go with her 20 points. Sophomore Paige Littrell added 10 points for the Bull Dogs, who shot 51.1 percent from the field for the game (24 of 47).
For Whiteland (1-16), Monica Wagner and Sidney Crowe both scored nine points. The Warriors hit only 11 of 40 shots for the game (27.5 percent) and turned the ball over 23 times.
Whiteland will host Jennings County on Thursday in a make-up of a game originally scheduled for Jan. 16.
Columbus North returns to action Friday when it travels to Southport for a girls/boys doubleheader that begins at 6 p.m.