Shooting percentages were low and the number of tense moments high.
Welcome to Center Grove-Whiteland boys basketball rivalry, the latest installment producing another classic Friday night inside the Warriors’ Glenn Ray Gymnasium.
In a game of scoring bursts, the visiting Trojans got in the final word for a 50-47 victory.
Senior guard Michael Benkert scored 15 of his game-high 21 points during the final two quarters as Center Grove enters the holiday break with a 5-2 record.
“I’m proud of how our guys played in the second half. We did what we talked about all week. We got to the basket more and when you do that, good things happen,” first-year Trojans coach Zach Hahn said.
“We still need to be more consistent in taking care of the basketball and shot selection. But Credit Whiteland. My goodness, (Warriors coach Matt Wadsworth) has those guys playing hard.”
The game featured four ties and 11 lead changes.
The final advantage took place when Center Grove junior forward Bryce Brown knocked down a 15-foot jumper with 1:01 remaining for a 48-47 lead. They were Brown’s lone points of
Wadsworth called a timeout with 51.9 seconds showing. The Warriors then worked the clock down and got the ball to 6-4 junior forward Tom Purdie at the top of the key while the crowd rose to its feet.
Purdie, who had been a thorn in the Trojans’ side the entire evening with 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, drove the lane but had his shot blocked and boarded by Benkert.
Immediately fouled at 5.0 seconds, Benkert couldn’t yet shoot free throws, as it was only Whiteland’s sixth foul.
On the ensuing inbounds play, senior guard Anderson McCoy was fouled by Warriors junior point guard Terr’e Moss at 3.4 seconds. McCoy swished both ends of the one-and-bonus for what would be the final count.
Moss’ desperation shot following a timeout was off the mark.
Center Grove finished 17 of 38 (.447) from the field, while Whiteland was 15 of 40 (.375). The Trojans won the rebounding battle 25-20 but committed more turnovers (12-10).
“Before the game we said that we’ll make runs and they’ll make runs. Both teams defended the perimeter well. There were not a lot of clean looks in the game,” Wadsworth said after watching his squad fall to 3-3.
“If you’re a high school kid, this is the kind of atmosphere you want to play in.”
Junior guard Trevor Harrell came off the bench to add 11 points for Center Grove. Whiteland’s other double-digit scorer was junior guard Will Higdon with 10.
Whiteland’s 12-0 scoring run to open the second quarter proved the catalyst in the Warriors taking a 28-24 lead at halftime.
Higdon’s 3-pointer from the left baseline was followed by Moss’ high-arcing triple from the same location 40 seconds later which knotted the score at 16-all at 6:54 of the second.
Higdon’s pull-up 15-footer, a rebound bucket from 6-5 sophomore forward Mike Valle and a pair of free throws by junior guard Garrett Herald upped the spread to 22-16.
A Benkert layup 3:03 before halftime provided Center Grove its first points since a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Harrell to close out the first quarter.
Center Grove is now off until Dec. 27, when it hosts county rival Greenwood. Whiteland plays at home for a third consecutive game tonight when it welcomes Greenwood Christian Academy.