Early last week, members of the Center Grove girls basketball team gathered to discuss what had been accomplished and the challenges that lie ahead.
Doors were closed. Every word spoken carried equal weight, be it from a freshman or head coach Shawn Sanders.
After a torrid 8-0 start, the Trojans have lost four of the past six games and tumbled out of the top 10 in the weekly Class 4A rankings.
“It was just to get our heads on straight and not dwell on the games we had lost,” 5-foot-10 senior guard/forward Bri Gliesmann said. “The meeting was to get our confidence back and to improve as a team overall. We just need to focus more on the present than on the past.”
Story continues below gallery
Sanders agreed, saying it was imperative in the course of what will amount to a 23-game regular season to get everyone refocused.
“We changed our schedule after last year to get as many tests in as possible. We added Bedford North Lawrence, Roncalli and Fishers, and those are three really good teams,” he said.
“Obviously, after every loss you have to evaluate yourself. I’m not sure if it was an X’s and O’s thing, not handling the pressure or whatever. The players were trying to find out what we as coaches were wanting, and I have really been pleased with how they’ve responded.”
Center Grove started with a 44-point dismantling of a much improved Whiteland team Jan. 6. Just as impressive was Friday night’s 46-41 victory at Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference rival Carmel.
The Trojans surrendered only 25-of-86 field-goal shooting (.291) in their latest wins, while forcing the Warriors into 21 turnovers and the Greyhounds into 17.
“We showed a lot of maturity playing at Carmel and winning a conference game on the road,” Sanders said.
Center Grove is now 3-1 in the MIC, a record shared by Ben Davis. Class 4A No. 2 Lawrence North is in the driver’s seat at 4-0, followed by eighth-ranked Pike at 4-1.
Center Grove can be its own best ally or worst enemy in the coming weeks. The Trojans host North Central on Thursday and Ben Davis on Jan. 24 before playing their MIC finale at Lawrence North on Jan. 30.
Much depends on the senior nucleus of the Gliesmann, 6-1 forward Regan Wentland, 6-2 forward Ali Line and 5-7 guard Jessica Norris.
This quartet through 16 games has provided 63 percent of Center Grove’s point production, 67 percent of its rebounding, 61 percent of steals and 84 percent of blocked shots.
Norris continues to lead her team in scoring at 12.3 points a contest, with Gliesmann (10.3) and 5-5 junior point guard Lauren Rau (10.2) close behind. Wentland and Line are good for 9.4 and 7.2, respectively, while 5-9 freshman Cassidy Hardin produces 6.0 off the bench.
Line’s 5.7 rebounds are tops for the Trojans, with Gliesmann at 4.8. Rau deals assists at a 4.6 rate, while Gliessman leads the way in steals with 3.1 per game.
These final seven regular-season games are an engraved invitation for Center Grove to continue building toward what Sanders hopes is a memorable postseason run.
The annual tournament draw takes place Feb. 1, with the six-team Greenwood Sectional scheduled to begin Jan. 10.
Whichever team prevails feeds into the Bedford North Lawrence Regional.
It would be Center Grove’s second drive to the home of the two-time defending 4A state champs this season after losing there 46-33 on Dec. 13.
And maybe, if things play out the way Sanders hopes, time for another team meeting.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Thursday – *North Central, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday – at Roncalli, 1:30 p.m.
Tuesday – Perry Meridian, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 24 – *Ben Davis, 1:30 p.m.
Jan. 27 – at Greenwood, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 30 – at *Lawrence North, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 5 – Bloomington North, 7:30 p.m.