Center Grove faces New Palestine tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the opening round of the Whiteland sectional. The boy’s basketball team is confident having ended the regular season on a four-game winning streak with three of those victories coming against top 10 teams in the state.
On Feb. 17, the Trojans upset No. 9 Mooresville 71-56 at home. Three days later, the Trojans marched into North Central and beat the No. 2 ranked Panthers in overtime. Junior guard Bailey Barrett hit a contested three pointer at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime (see video of Barrett’s shot here). He later made two big free throws in the extra period to secure the win.
It is wins like this that CG hopes to build off of in the post-season.
On Feb. 24, the Trojans battled No. 7 Brownsburg on the road, winning 44-36. In a game that would have been easy to overlook heading into sectionals, CG faced Terre Haute North (10-13) on Senior Night last Friday night. However, CG got off to a fast start and led the entire game before running away for a 56-31 victory. Senior Michael Benkert led the team in scoring, putting up 16 points in his final game in the Vandermeer Gymnasium.
“I feel great momentum going into the sectional tournament after beating three ranked teams,” Benkert said. “But as a team, we are just focused on the first possession against New Palestine, and we will take it from there.”
The Trojans will face a New Palestine team tonight that they beat earlier in the season 68-54. First-year Center Grove coach Zach Hahn is trying to use the confidence his team and staff has after the earlier victory and the season-ending run, but understands the madness of post-season basketball.
“Confidence can go a long way when playing in a single elimination state tournament. With that being said, records and momentum are thrown out the window as you have to play one possession at a time,” Hahn said.
Confidence itself won’t be enough to win, however. The team knows the must move the ball well and push the tempo of the game. Grabbing defensive rebounds and not allowing New Pal second chances is essential to a Trojan victory.
This senior-loaded basketball team is looking for post-season success after a disappointing end to last year’s season, a one-point loss to Franklin Central in the sectional semi-final.
“The team has done a great job of growing and learning over the course of the season,” Hahn said. “It’s always important to be playing your best basketball down the stretch.”
Ryan Stemle wrote this article.