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.