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.