Southsider Voice correspondent
First-year varsity coach Zach Hahn has brought his way and the Butler Way to Center Grove boys basketball.
Hahn, who helped lead the Bulldogs to runner-up finishes in the 2010 and ’11 NCAA tournaments, was previously an assistant coach at Ben Davis.
Hahn is known for demanding that his players pay attention to detail, move with purpose on the basketball court, do all the little things to help their team and play a relentless defense.
“There are so many little details that we talk about each week, especially defensively – how to guard a specific player,” said Hahn, who echoed a Butler Way intricacy. “If you take something away that a player likes to do, then he’s not going to be that good of a player against us.”
On offense, Hahn arguably has one of the state’s top players in 6-4 Michael Benkert Jr., a multitalented player who can take over a game with his scoring abilities from the outside and inside. Against Martinsville last month, the Belmont University recruit hit three consecutive 3-pointers early in the third quarter as the Trojans came from behind to win at home. He scored 12 points in the third quarter of the Johnson County championship game, which the Trojans won for the sixth time in eight years.
Benkert has high praise for his new mentor. “Just his coaching mentality and just being around him, you can see from the bench that he loves the game; he loves us,” Benkert said. “Once he got the job last May, he told us that we deserve a championship. We have faith in him, all of our coaches and everybody who has been with us since then. We wake up in the morning and go do free throws, we work hard.”
Hahn expressed pride in the Trojans, but with a 9-6 record, there are bigger challenges ahead.
“I definitely believe our guys are buying into the process, especially defensively,” Hahn said. “They are starting to understand the mentality – it’s a team game. “I couldn’t be more proud of where our guys are after only being with them for seven months.”
However, the Trojans are winless in three Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference games after losing Friday at Ben Davis, where Hahn’s squad shot below 30 percent from the field. Center Grove faces four more league foes in its seven remaining games.
“It’s only going to get tougher,” he said. “We still have a lot of lapses offensively; it’s the simple things. Some of it is because of what other teams do to us defensively, but some of it is because of the things we do.”
Six Southside boys teams are at home Friday night: Lawrence North at Roncalli, Bloomington North at Franklin Central, Columbus North at Perry Meridian, Shelbyville at Greenwood and Beech Grove at Lutheran.
Also, Southport tries to regroup at Columbus North after losing two of its last three games, Manual visits Howe, and Baptist Academy visits Greenwood Christian (8 p.m.); all games at 7:30 p.m., unless indicated.
And then Saturday night, Franklin visits Southport, Roncalli goes to Greenwood, and Perry Meridian is host to Shelbyville.
Girls state tourney draw
The girls draw is at 4 p.m. Sunday, with the sectionals beginning Tuesday, Feb. 10.
Area teams are at the following sites: 4A No. 8 Roncalli at Lawrence North, Perry Meridian and Southport at Ben Davis, 4A No. 17 Center Grove and Franklin Central at Greenwood, Beech Grove at Greencastle, Manual at Crispus Attucks and Lutheran and Greenwood Christian Academy at Morristown.