Senior staff writer
Center Grove’s No. 15 girls basketball team needed to turn its game around Friday night against Franklin in the second half of the semifinal of the 4A Franklin Central Sectional.
First-year Trojans coach Kevin Stuckmeyer already had thought about what he would go over with the team, but when he entered the locker room he realized that senior leadership had taken over before he could say a word.
With the Trojans leading 21-19 and hitting only seven-of-22 shots, senior guard senior guard Cassie Hardin already was having her say.
“I didn’t want us to be down; I knew we were a little disappointed, so I tried to fire them up,” Hardin recalled. “I told them that even if we weren’t hitting shots, we could bring our energy to the defensive end and begin getting easy baskets. … The game wasn’t over, but we didn’t want them (Franklin) hanging around.”
The Trojans responded by forcing five turnovers in the first 80 seconds of the third quarter and taking a 27-19 lead en route to advancing to the title game against Martinsville.
“We were overlooking Franklin ... moving on to the Martinsville game,” Hardin said. “It was our fault last night (Friday), but we really had the energy for this game.”
Center Grove kept its momentum alive Saturday against Indiana All-Star candidate Kayana Traylor, who will team with Hardin at Purdue.
Determined to avenge a 62-43 loss to the Artesians in last year’s first round, Center Grove jumped to an 8-0 lead and stopped defending champion Martinsville cold, 60-46. The Arties never led, and Traylor was held to 15 points.
Three Trojans scored in double figures: Hardin,18 points; junior Ella Thompson 14; and senior center Amy Davis 12. Junior guard Emma Utterback and Thompson defended Traylor. Utterback scored only four points but dished out six of CG’s 16 assists.
“We did not start well in the first two games of the tournament,” coach Stuckmeyer said after the title game. “We talked about the need to start well and take care of the end of each quarter. Credit Cas and the leaders with taking care of the locker room and the demeanor to have a better start in this one. They were a very difficult team to prepare for and keep at bay for 32 minutes, and we were able to do that. Every girl did their job defensively.”
Traylor reeled in 21 of her game-high 23 points in the first half Friday in leading the Arties over Greenwood (11-13) 75-44 to advance to the championship game.
After the semifinal games, Stuckmeyer revealed that keeping Traylor from cutting into the lane with the ball was a priority. CG’s defenders made sure Traylor was under pressure everywhere.
“Our mindset on defense stopped her,” Utterback said. She is such a good player that I couldn’t guard her like I did the Franklin guards. On offense we had to be unselfish because we knew they would pressure Cas a lot, and that opened up some other things for us.”
The Trojans, the area’s only sectional champ, have until Saturday to regroup for the Columbus North Regional, where they will meet Castle at noon. The opener pits Columbus East against Bedford North Lawrence, and the title game is 8 p.m. The Trojans are attempting to reach the semistate for the first time since 1996.
Stuckmeyer said hopes he has found a pregame family tradition. About five minutes before facing Franklin, wife Brittany carried their 18-month-old daughter, McKenzie, over to her dad so she could give him a good luck kiss. Dad explained that such moments are rare due to pregame timing.
Host of its first sectional tourney, Greenwood Christian Academy reached the title game by outscoring two foes 142-53 before falling to 1A No. 3 Tindley 83-53 in the championship game.
Southside team finishes (class ranking): No. 12 Beech Grove (18-5) lost to Tri-West 60-56 in semifinal overtime; Franklin Central (7-17) defeated by Martinsville 57-37 in first round; Lutheran (11-12) defeated by No. 3 Tindley 92-55 in semifinals; Manual (13-12) lost to No. 7 Danville 83-32 in first round; Perry Meridian (7-16) defeated by No. 1 Pike 56-37 in semfinals; Roncalli (12-12) defeated by Pike 44-26 in first round; Southport (5-17) downed by No. 20 Ben Davis 71-58 in semifinals.