It’s been 12 years since a Center Grove girls basketball team started a season with eight straight victories.
History such as this means little to Trojans coach Shawn Sanders, who chooses to look forward. Given the six opponents his fourth-ranked squad (7-0) must face in a span of 16 days, it’s not like he has a choice.
The whirlwind begins Thursday night at home against Bloomington South, an opponent that has gotten the better of Center Grove four of the past six meetings — including last season’s 52-42 decision in overtime.
Awaiting the Trojans on Saturday will be two-time defending Class 4A state champion Bedford North Lawrence. The Stars are again flying high with an 8-0 record and No. 1 ranking under first-year coach Jeff Allen.
Sanders, who has attended girls postseason games at Bedford North Lawrence’s 5,600-seat gymnasium when it’s been standing-room-only, looks forward to the challenge of facing a high-quality foe inside such an imposing environment.
“We thought it would be great to play them. And a chance to play at their place, it’s just a great atmosphere,” Sanders said. “Bedford’s girls basketball environment is better than most of the boys basketball environments in the state.”
The Stars’ home winning streak sits at 31, their last defeat being a 58-50 loss to eventual Class 4A state runner-up Columbus North in the 2012 regional final.
Bedford North Lawrence forward Dominique McBryde, a 6-foot-2 senior, has signed to play for Purdue University and is a frontrunner for Indiana Miss Basketball honors. Stars senior guard Alexa Bailey, daughter of Bedford North Lawrence legend Damon Bailey, will be playing next season at Butler University.
Center Grove then faces two good teams in Martinsville and sixth-ranked Pike before participating in the prestigious Hall of Fame Classic at New Castle’s Chrysler Arena.
It’s here the Trojans play Class 4A No. 8 Mooresville in the 11 a.m. opening semifinal. Their opponent that evening will be Gary West or Class 2A No. 1 Heritage Christian in either the consolation or title matchup.
Center Grove is currently not at full strength, as starting point guard Lauren Rau’s status remains day-to-day due to shin splints.
The junior is her team’s second-leading scorer at 11.8 points a game. She also sets the tone
in assists (6.8) and is third in steals (2.8).
Senior guard Jessica Norris leads Center Grove in scoring (13.3), with senior forwards Bri Gliesmann and Regan Wentland averaging 5 and 3.3 steals per game, respectively. Ali Line, a
6-2 senior forward, corrals a team-best 5.7 rebounds.
The Trojans average 17.1 assists per game while turning the ball over at an 11.1 clip. Line and
Wentland are good for 1.7 and
1.6 blocks, respectively.
Even though Center Grove is unbeaten in seven games and outscoring the opposition by an average of 36.2 points, Sanders said he has seen enough to know his team is nowhere near where it must be to make a deep postseason run
“We find things we want to get better at. The bottom line is we just want to get better every game,” said Sanders, who is 71-45 (.612) since taking over the
program in 2009.
“We’re trying to find all those areas where we’re not necessarily getting an ‘A,’” he added. “We’re holding our kids to a high standard because we know what their goals are.”
TOUGH ROAD AHEAD
Center Grove has yet to play a close game in motoring to a 7-0 start. This likely is about to change given the way the remainder of December shapes up:
Thursday – Class 4A No. 14 Bloomington South (5-1), 7:30 p.m.
Saturday – at Class 4A No. 1 Bedford North Lawrence (8-0), 1:30 p.m.
Dec. 16 – Martinsville (5-3), 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 20 – Class 4A No. 6 Pike (5-0), 1:30 p.m.
Dec. 26 – Hall of Fame Classic (Center Grove vs. Class 4A No. 8 Mooresville, Gary West vs. Class 2A No. 1 Heritage Christian)