Southsider Voice correspondent
Center Grove High School’s basketball teams are getting their fair share of attention for two reasons.
First, the girls team, which is loaded with height and experience, won its first eight games and enjoyed a No. 2 ranking before suffering its first loss Dec. 12 on the road at No. 1 and defending 4A state champion Bedford North Lawrence.
Second, the boys team, winners of only two sectional titles in the past 21 years, is under first-year coach Zach Hahn, a former standout player at Butler University and a graduate of “the Butler way.”
The Lady Trojans dropped to sixth in last week’s Indiana Basketball Coaches Association poll after falling to BNL 46-33. When lining up Dec. 16 against visiting Martinsville, the Trojans were challenged for the first time to play after suffering a defeat.
“I wanted to see how we came out and retaliated,” sixth-year coach Shawn Sanders said. “BNL showed us where we had some holes. We watched film, and I was pretty critical; we would have held BNL to 40 points, but we had to put them on the line late. I was looking for execution (against Martinsville).”
Through nine games the Trojans held foes to 34.1 points per game, limiting Warren Central to a mere 13 points, while averaging 14.9 steals.
“I am biased, but I think we are the best defensive team in the state,” said Sanders, who added that the Trojans’ ability to create turnovers fueled their 8-0 run. However, as the competition toughens, the team will have to rely on its half-court offense, he said.
“We have to be able to set screens, come off screens, find the open player and get a great shot; five girls who are moving. “We do it at times but not consistently against the really good teams.”
Center Grove (9-2) is in a precarious stretch, having lost Saturday to No. 7 Pike 74-66, as it faces No. 15 Mooresville on Dec. 26 in the Hall of Fame tourney at New Castle, with the possibility of facing No. 3 Heritage Christian and then hosting No. 16 Fishers on Jan. 3.
The Trojans rely on a perimeter offense, although they start 5-10 Bri Gliesmann, 6-1 Regan Wentland and 6-2 Ali Line up front. Against Martinsville, the Trojans hit 9-of-23 3-pointers and 20-of-47 overall. Jessica Norris, a 5-7 guard, hit 4-of-8 treys.
CG sports a balanced offense: Norris averages 12 points; running mate Lauren Rau, 11.7; Gliesmann, 10 points, 4.1 rebounds; Wentland, 9.4 points; and Line, 7.6 points, 5.2 rebounds. Rau scored 21 against Pike.
Hahn expects all players to contribute
Hahn wants to see all 10 varsity players contribute each game.
“If I can play all 10 guys every game, I’ll play all 10 – that’s what I want,” he said. “I want a high-energy level game from our guys. I know it’s hard, even at the high school level, to play 32 minutes of hard, intense basketball. When we play all 10, it’s a matter of playing their roles and doing what we want them to do.”
Hahn has a bona fide Indiana All-Star candidate in 6-4 senior guard Michael Benkert, who scored 18 points against Martinsville and took over the game early in the third quarter when scoring the Trojans’ first eight points.
Benkert is joined in the starting lineup by guards Anderson McCoy and Carson Lee and up front by 6-4 Sam Hendershott and 6-5 Alec Leiter. The bench, consisting of Matt Hawk, Bailey Barrett, Joey Lenkey, Trevor Harrell and Bryce Brown, scored 17 points in a 49-43 win over Martinsville.
Hahn also is looking for more consistency. “Right now, we’re a team that’s playing by runs. When you do that against the really good teams, you know they’re not going to give you another shot (rally). They’re going to bounce back and retaliate because we’re allowing it.”
The Trojans are at home Dec. 27 to face neighboring Greenwood and then go to Perry Meridian Jan. 2.
No. 1-ranked Southport leads six Southside boys teams into holiday tourney action. The Cardinals meet Batesville at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Hall of Fame Classic at New Castle. Brownsburg meets Penn at 12:45 p.m.; consolation game at 6 p.m., championship game at 8 p.m.
More tourney matchups: Saturday – at Shelbyville, Roncalli vs. East Central, noon; consolation at 6 p.m., championship 7:30 p.m. Dec. 28 – at Edinburgh, Lutheran vs. Medora, 10 a.m.; Manual vs. Edinburgh, noon; Manual vs. Trinity Lutheran, 4 p.m., Lutheran vs. Jac-Cen-Del, 8 p.m.; Dec. 29, fifth- and third-place and championship games start at 4 p.m. Dec. 29 – at Monrovia, Greenwood Christian vs. Monrovia, 10 a.m.; consolation at 6 p.m., championship at 8 p.m. Jan. 1. Jan 1 – at Richmond, Portage vs. Franklin Central, 4 p.m.; 16-team tourney continues Jan. 2 and 3.
In the girls tournaments, Roncalli is host to a four-team tourney Saturday. The Rebels meet Oregon-Davis at 10 a.m., and Covington (Ky.) Holy Cross faces Lawrence North at noon; the consolation and championship games start at 6 and 8 p.m., respectively.