Center Grove seniors Jessica Norris (left) and Regen Wentland combined for 29 points to lead the Trojans past Greenwood in the sectional championship game hosted by the Woodmen.
SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTOS BY AL STILLEY Center Grove’s basketball team is all smiles after winning its first sectional championship since 2011. Next up for the Trojans is No. 1 Bedford North Lawrence in Saturday’s opening round of the Bedford Regional. The Stars defeated Center Grove 46-33 earlier this season.
Center Grove head coach Shawn Sanders
Center Grove players celebrate their sectional win over Franklin Central Friday night. The win snapped a losing streak to the Flashes.
By Al Stilley Southsider Voice correspondent
Center Grove’s lady Trojans snapped a three-year basketball sectional championship drought Saturday at Greenwood. The Trojans cleared sectional nemesis Franklin Central in a Friday semifinal 39-36 and then dominated underdog New Palestine 58-33 Saturday for their first sectional title since 2011. “Our defense set the tone, knocked them back on their heels and we created points off turnovers,” coach Shawn Sanders said. “We were energized.”
Sanders said she was a bit leery throughout the day of playing upset-minded New Palestine. “We had never played New Pal, but we had several defenses that we could throw at them. Franklin Central was such a grinder that I thought we might be a little exhausted. I didn’t want Franklin Central to be our highlight of the tourney.” The Trojans’ trapping defenses helped force the Dragons into 12 turnovers and limited them to only hit 4-of-18 shots in the first half.Seniors Regan Wentland, 17 points (13 in the first half), and Jessica Norris, 12 points, led the offense. They and classmates Bri Gliesmann and Ali Line were on a mission.
“I didn’t realize how frustrating it was (not winning a sectional) until this my senior year,” Wentland said. “It was all or nothing this time. We were ready for this game; we definitely were up, We just knew we had to come out strong.”
Sanders praised Wentland’s relentless play. “She’s blue collar, hard hat. In her four years I’ve never seen her as aggressive in going to the basket. She was our leader. We needed somebody who could set the tone and everybody jumped on her cape and we went on.”
The Trojans (20-6) got off to a 3-0 start on sharpshooting Jessica Norris’ trey and never trailed. Buzzer-beating 3-pointers by junior Lauren Rau and freshman Cassidy Hardin resulted in leads of 18-6 and 29-10 to end the first and second quarters, respectively. Nine players scored for the Trojans. Center Grove’s reward is a rematch against No. 1 Bedford North Lawrence at noon Saturday at the Bedford Regional. The Stars defeated the visiting Trojans 46-33 Dec. 13. Columbus North and Evansville Central meet in the opener at 10 a.m.
“We have nothing to lose; this is against Bedford North Lawrence. They are supposed to beat us,” Sanders said. “We’re going to do down there, play loose, give it everything we’ve got and come out swinging.” This is the Trojans’ first 20-win season since 2000-01.
Odd way to advance New Pal reached the final game in improbable, if not questionable, fashion against Greenwood in Friday’s semifinal. The Dragons went to the free throw line 41 times, while the Woodmen did not get to the charity stripe at all. The foul disparity was 28-6 in favor of the Dragons, who defeated the hosts 46-26. Although outscored from the field 26-16, the Dragons advanced because they hit 30 free throws. Greenwood (11-13) hit three more field goals.
Greenwood’s leading scorer, junior Holly Hoopengarner (IUPUI commit), had 12 points but was saddled with her fourth foul midway in the third quarter, and Greenwood coach Debbie Guckenberger drew a technical foul.
Also reaching finals Perry Meridian and Greenwood Christian Academy reached championship matchups Saturday. The Falcons were pummeled 82-42 by Pike in the 4A Ben Davis Sectional. Coach Mike Armstrong’s Falcons finished 11-13 after defeating Northwest and Decatur Central to reach the title game. Greenwood Christian (14-12) reached the finals of the Class A Morristown Sectional before bowing out to the sectional hosts 55-31.
The Cougars downed Lutheran 48-43 Friday to reach the finals. Sydney Buis and Hannah Peters combined for 31 points against the Saints (9-14). Roncalli (18-7), Southport (7-16), Beech Grove (11-12) and Manual (12-11) lost in first-round games. Washington edged Manual 53-52 in the Attucks Sectional, but the Redskins posted their first winning season since 2003-04 under second-year coach Katie Fisher.