Trojans pull away from Cubs for win

Neither team played with its full complement of starters, but Center Grove and Franklin felt they each had points to prove in Tuesday’s intra-county girls basketball matchup.

The host Grizzly Cubs, who lost to the Trojans 76-35 in the Johnson County Tournament championship Nov. 22, wanted to prove they could compete with Center Grove. The Class 4A No. 4 Trojans wanted to sharpen their game before a stretch in which they’ll face multiple state-ranked opponents.

Franklin accomplished its mission early, trailing by just four (24-20) with 6:51 remaining in the third quarter. The Trojans, after a shaky start, fulfilled their wishes to an extent late, going on a 13-0 fourth-quarter run to put the game away en route to a 59-35 win.

Center Grove (6-0) played without starting point guard Lauren Rau, who sat out with shin splints. Trojans’ coach Shawn Sanders said Rau will likely rest for several more days before they face a grueling stretch, beginning with undefeated Bloomington South (4-1 after losing to Seymour on Tuesday) on Dec. 11.

Center Grove will then play at Class 4A No. 1 Bedford North Lawrence on Dec. 13 before games against Class 4A No. 6 Pike (Dec. 20) and Class 4A No. 8 Mooresville in the Dec. 26 in the Hall of Fame Tournament at New Castle.

Franklin (3-4), meanwhile, played without starters Maci Eads, Whitney Shapp and Allison Barnard. Eads sat out with a concussion, and Barnard injured her foot, which will be examined later this week, according to Cubs’ coach Walt Raines. He said Shapp should return in time for the Cubs’ next game, Saturday against Decatur Central.

In Rau’s absence, Center Grove senior Regan Wentland, normally a wing, stepped into the point guard spot. She led the Trojans with 15 points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked a couple of shots. Fellow seniors Ali Line and Bri Gliesmann each added 12 points for Center Grove.

“The four seniors (including Jessica Norris) know how to play together, we’ve played together for so long,” Wentland said. “From the outset, our shots weren’t falling, but we started passing and cutting better as the game progressed.”

The Trojans shot just 1 of 11 in the first half from 3-point range and 3 of 17 overall (17.5 percent), but hit 20 of 25 free throws. They also committed only nine turnovers, while forcing Franklin into 22 miscues.

The Cubs shot just 10 of 39 from the floor (25.6 percent) but stayed in the game by hanging with the taller Trojans in rebounding (Center Grove outrebounded Franklin 32-30) and hitting 5 of 14 (35.7 percent) from 3-point range.

Delanie Hill led Franklin with 15 points, while Elizabeth Berrones and Cami Cochrane each added five. Sophomore guard McKenna Bertsch (5-foot-2) hustled her way to nine rebounds for the Cubs.

“The girls played hard from the start, which we didn’t do in the county championship game,” Raines said. “The kids came out with the mindset that we weren’t going to be blown out.

“We attacked, pressured and made them work for everything.”

Center Grove gradually pulled away to a 38-27 lead at the end of the third quarter, then outscored the Cubs 19-3 during the first 5:09 of the fourth quarter. The Trojans hit 9 of 10 free throws during that stretch, and finally broke through with a pair of 3-pointers after only hitting 1 of their first 14.

“When Walt has time to prepare, they’re going to be ready to play, and we looked lethargic,” Sanders said, explaining the game’s start. “In the second half, we started to play with a little more poise and started going to the rim a little more aggressively.”

Center Grove plays again Friday at Metropolitan Conference rival Lawrence Central.

Adam Wire is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.