DAILY JOURNAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
Michael Benkert kept Center Grove in the game early Friday, and a suffocating defense along with dead-eye free-throw shooting sealed an impressive win for the Trojans’ boys basketball team.
Benkert hit 6 of 7 from 3-point range, all in the first three quarters, en route to a team-high 18 points. Teammates Anderson McCoy and Trevor Harrell combined to hit 12 of 14 fourth-quarter free throws as the visiting Trojans rallied to defeat Perry Meridian 66-56.
Center Grove needed all of that to
offset Perry Meridian’s 6-foot-7 senior sensation, Dylan Windler. The Belmont recruit poured in 37 points, including 13 of 14 from the free-throw line, but he scored just two of those points during a key fourth-
The Trojans (7-2) outscored the Falcons 16-3 from the start of the period until 1:09 remained in the game.
Perry Meridian led 46-42 at the end of the third quarter, thanks to a 30-foot buzzer-beating 3-pointer by T.J. Comer. But Center Grove swung the momentum in its favor for good when the fourth period started.
“Late in the game, we dictated them defensively,” first-year Center Grove coach Zach Hahn said. “We didn’t change the way we played. (Windler) is a great player, but our guys have been resilient.
“We found a way to win.”
Early on, it looked to be a shootout between Windler and Benkert, as they finished the first quarter with 12 points apiece. From there, more of Benkert’s teammates shared the scoring burden.
McCoy finished with 13, all in the second half, and Harrell added 11. Bryce Brown added eight and Carson Lee six for Center Grove.
Shawntain North (10 points) was Perry Meridian’s only other double-figure scorer. The Falcons fell to 6-3.
“Mike is obviously a really good player, and he’s going to have to make plays for us,” Hahn said. “Anderson is our energy man. Trevor was huge. Early in the season, he missed some free throws, so he showed what kind of kid he is.”
Center Grove hit 20 of 36 from the floor (55.6 percent), including 9 of 13 in the second half. The Trojans held Perry Meridian to 6 of 22 from the floor (27.3 percent) in the second half and 15 of 45 overall.
The Falcons hit 6 of 26 from 3-point range (23.1 percent), while Center Grove hit 9 of 18.
The Trojans also committed just five turnovers.
“We were concerned about their length, so we definitely did a better job taking care of the basketball, especially late,” Hahn said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys who can catch and shoot. Mike’s going to do a lot of the scoring, but he can also be an assist guy, and everyone else has bought in.”
Center Grove hosts Cathedral tonight.