By Al Stilley
Center Grove’s girls’ basketball team came oh, so close to overtaking Bedford North Lawrence during the opening 4A Southport Semistate matchup Saturday morning at Southport Fieldhouse.
Although the No. 6 Stars prevailed 50-43, the difference in the game was described as “razor thin” by Center Grove coach Kevin Stuckmeyer.
“We dug deep and we never gave up,” Stuckmeyer said. “There were so many times we came close to the lead when the difference was razor thin.
The No. 11 Trojans fell behind 21-11 before trimming the Stars halftime lead to 22-18. The 7-2 run was fueled by Audrey Annee’s 3-point shot and successful drive to the basket and a shot underneath by Rachel Wirts.
This hard-fought duel turned “razor thin” in the second half as the Trojans tied it at 28-28 on senior Ella Hobson’s first 3-pointer of the game. The Stars spurted but Hobson’s trey before the buzzer cut their lead to 32-31, the second of three times the Stars lead was a mere point.
Early in the third quarter, Hobson drove for a layup that cut the Stars lead to 34-33. BNL extended the lead to 39-33 but Annee cut it to four.
With less than two minutes left, BNL reached double-bonus free throws that hampered the Trojans who could get no closer than three points (46-43) with 5.9 seconds left.
“We put ourselves in a position to win and that’s all you can ask them to do at this point,” said Stuckmeyer, who is 113-43 through six seasons.
“We came close but we never got over the hump.”
The Trojans zone defense slowed the Stars at times, but BNL’s quickness on defense helped CG turn the ball over 14 times. BNL out-scored the Trojans on 19 of 28 free throws while CG only got to the line five times and hit four freebies.
Booker led CG with 14 points as Annee added 13 points with Hobson and Wirts scoring eight points apiece. The Stars three-way punch of Chloe Spreen, Mallory Pride, and Butler commit Karsyn Norman combined for 44 points.
The Stars went on and defeated Lawrence North, 47-40 in the nightcap to advance to the 4A state championship game.
CG finished with a 22-5 record, including the program’s 22nd sectional and fifth regional championships. The Trojans will graduate five seniors – Hobson, Ali Wiesmann, Aina Williams, Savanna Bischoff, and Lindsey Walker.
“We have had a close group of girls for three to four years,” Stuckmeyer observed. “They played a year as underclassmen without any seniors. They discovered how to do things the right way. They (seniors) have a championship mentality and it served them well.”
The season turned after losing to Franklin by four points (38-34) as the Trojans rolled to an 18-game winning streak that came to an end Saturday at Southport.
(PHOTOS BY DARCY LEBER)
Center Grove sophomore Lilly Bischoff goes up for a layup.
Center Grove junior Aubrie Booker dribbles her way to the basket.
Junior Audrey Annee dribbles the ball. She looks for an open shot or pass to make.
Roncalli (goes into the upcoming 4A Sectional at Perry Meridian with five seniors, from left, Trevor Lauck, Nolan Tunny, Shaun Byrne, Luke Kegerreis, and Luke Skartvedt. The Royals open the Perry Meridian Sectional Tuesday against Decatur Central - SUBMITTED PHOTO. Southport senior AJ Dancler (1), bottom left, is the Cardinals’ all-time career scorer. Southport collides with No. 1 Ben Davis in an early playoff showdown Wednesday, March 1 in the Perry Meridian Sectional - SUBMITTED PHOTO. Center Grove senior Marcus Ankney (3), right) drives against Mooresville en route to scoring 26 points - PHOTO BY SAM FINDLEY. Lutheran sophomore guard Cayden Loescher (10), bottom second from left, is part of Saints solid backcourt - SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTO BY DEIDRA BARNETT Wiatt McLaughlin, bottom second from right, leads Whiteland with 16.6 points per game - SUBMITTED PHOTO.
By Al Stilley
Center Grove, with a lofty No. 6 state ranking, and defending 3A champion Beech Grove lead a dozen Southside teams into the IHSAA boys’ basketball playoffs next week.
The Trojans are out to advance farther than last year when upstart Franklin upended the favorites for a 4A sectional title. This time around, CG coach Zach Hahn’s team is nine-deep with 6-3 senior Marcus Ankney, who can flat take over a game. Last week against talented Mooresville, Ankney scored a game-high 36 points, scoring the team’s first nine points in the fourth quarter as they pulled away from the Pioneers challenge.
Different Trojans have contributed at different times in different games to add up to a 18-2 record. Only no one knows for sure which player will step up.
Ankney is joined by seniors Jason Bundy and Ethan McComb and juniors Joey Schmitz, and 6-5 Will Spellman as starters with seniors Owen Baker and Garrett Messer and juniors Peyton Byrd and Dylan Meador off the bench. McComb scored 14 points, including four 3s, and Bundy added 10 points against Mooresville.
Coach Hahn knows the challenge ahead.
“You throw records out the window,” Hahn said. “When you have a target on your back with our ranking (state), you’re going to get everybody’s best shot.”
He knows the Trojans must regain some of their identity of being a tough defensive team and moving the ball on offense.
The Trojans, who are hosts to Columbus North Thursday, are looking for a fast start as they host a 4A sectional in Vandermeer Gymnasium against a tough field that includes Bloomington North and Bloomington South.
“We’ve got to be ready.”
Beech Grove’s first-year head coach Joe Rihm expressed the same goal of getting the Hornets prepared for the playoffs.
By defeating Triton Central Friday, the Hornets went through the Indiana Crossroads undefeated. They are 13-5 and are ranked No. 13 in Class 3A. The Hornets have eight seniors back from last year’s state championship team, including four of five starters.
Defeating Triton Central, 70-65 Friday, the Hornets claimed a second straight Indiana Crossroads title by going unbeaten in league play and their sixth straight win overall. Tyler Alexander led with 26 points, including 10-for-10 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter. The Hornets attack features Alexander (12.1 points per game) and guards Jeremiah Tate (13.3 points) and Jaleel Edwards (9.1 points) plus 6-6 sharp-shooter Cam Brown (10.2 points) and 6-5 Rylan Horen.
“He (Alexander) has confidence, can drive the ball, and hit the 3,” Rihm said. “We need the ball in his hands, but we have six guys who can score in bunches which makes us difficult to defend.
“At times we get stagnant (offense), but when we move the ball and are sharing it, we’re really good,”
Rihm said, pointing out that the Hornets had 16 assists on 17 made field goals earlier last week in defeating Perry Meridian, 55-36.
Defensively, the Hornets can mix defenses; their zone defense was effective against Triton Central at strategic times Friday.
“We are deep and can keep fresh legs going in tournament time,” Rihm observed. “Our experience will really help us.”
Rebounding and consistency are question marks as the Hornets take aim at their fifth straight sectional trophy at Christel House Manual.
Here’s the outlook for Southside teams, records through Saturday:
AT PERRY MERIDIAN (4A)
Favorite: Ben Davis; Darkhorse: Southport
DECATUR CENTRAL (11-9) – Mid-State co-champs with Plainfield … sectional threat with former Southport / Beech Grove senior Anthony Ball, who had 26 points back-to-back last week … KC Berry (17.8 points) leads … lost to University, 67-66 Saturday.
FRANKLIN CENTRAL (2-18) - Lost eight straight games before lone season win at Whiteland … snapped 10-game losing streak Saturday by handcuffing Roncalli, 52-44 … played Center Grove and Southport close … only 47.1 points per game … hosts Perry Meridian Thursday.
PERRY MERIDIAN (4-16) – lack of offense in coach Mark James’ 41st season, fifth with Falcons … average only 36.7 points … scored 40-plus points in only three games … visit Franklin Central Thursday.
RONCALLI (8-13) – Eight wins with first-year coach Jamin Wernke … 3-4 since 1-8 mid-season slump … Drew Kegerreis (14.9 points), Nolan Tunny (11.8 points) lead … fell at Franklin Central, 52-44 Saturday … visit Brebeuf Jesuit Friday.
SOUTHPORT (14-8) – Undefeated Conference Indiana champs after defeating Terre Haute South, 87-60 on senior night Friday, highest offensive output of season … veteran team led by AJ Dancler, Keyon Miller, and Nickens Lemba … experienced team with seven seniors … lost twice to sectional fave Ben Davis … regular season ends Thursday at Lawrence Central.
AT CENTER GROVE (4A)
Favorite: Center Grove; Darkhorse: Mooresville
CENTER GROVE (18-2) – See story above.
GREENWOOD (7-13) – Deliberate offense produced only 40.1 points per game … defense limits teams to 46.8 points … visit New Palestine Friday.
AT COLUMBUS NORTH (4A)
Favorite: Columbus North; Darkhorse: Franklin
WHITELAND (8-14) – Deceiving record includes six losses of less than five points … avoided winless Mid-State campaign by upsetting Decatur Central, 67-62 with Wiatt McLaughlin scoring 26 points … lost Saturday at home to New Palestine, 66-50 … at Beech Grove Friday.
AT CHRISTEL HOUSE MANUAL(3A)
Favorite: Beech Grove; Darkhorse: none
BEECH GROVE (13-5) – See story above
CHRISTEL HOUSE MANUAL (10-9) – Eagles have winning record under second-year coach Robert Orkman … average 67.2 points offense … host Riverside Thursday.
AT LUTHERAN (1A)
Favorite: Lutheran; Darkhorse: GCA
GREENWOOD CHRISTIAN (15-6) – Jelling at right time under second-year / second-generation coach Jackson Williams … riding nine-game win streak, extended with 57-52 win at Edinburgh Friday … led by Max Booher and Blake Shewmaker, 17 points each … Hosts to Hauser Thursday …
LUTHERAN (13-7) – Edinburgh holiday tourney champs … play traditional “up” schedule, 8-5 against non-Class A teams … aggressive backcourt defense … Saints have quickness and power … defeated Monrovia, 57-35 Saturday … at Bethesda Christian Thursday.
(All championship games, Saturday, March 4)
At Perry Meridian
Tues.: Roncalli vs. Decatur Central. Wed., March 1: Perry Meridian vs. Franklin Central; Southport vs. Ben Davis. Fri., March 3: Pike vs. G1 winner; G2 vs. G3 winners.
At Center Grove
Tues.: Center Grove vs. Greenwood; Mooresville vs. Bloomington North. Fri., March 3: Bloomington South vs. G1 winner; Whiteland vs. G2 winner.
At Columbus North
Tues.: Shelbyville vs. East Central; Franklin vs. Columbus North. Fri., March 3: Whiteland vs. G1 winner: Columbus East vs. G2 winner.
At Christel House Manual
Tues.: George Washington vs. Purdue Poly; Speedway vs. Christel House Manual. Fri., March 3: Ritter vs. G1 winner; Beech Grove vs. G2 winner.
Tues.: Providence Cristo Rey vs. Eminence; Tindley vs. Greenwood Christian. Fri., March 3: Lutheran vs. G1 winner; Victory College Prep vs. G2 winner.
Admission: $7 per session; $15 all sessions.