DAILY JOURNAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
The Center Grove girls basketball team’s experience proved to be the difference against a young, scrappy North Central squad.
Center Grove starts four seniors and a junior. In contrast, North Central has one senior on its roster.
“We stuck with our veterans down the stretch and I thought they made some plays when we needed them to make plays, especially free throws and rebounds,” Trojans coach Shawn Sanders said.
The Trojans were able to hold off the visiting Panthers 55-50 in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference action Thursday night.
North Central’s Andrea Robertson sank a 3-pointer to cut Center Grove’s lead to 52-50 with 11.6 seconds left. Senior Bri Gliesmann was fouled with 9.4 seconds left and hit both free throws to push the lead to 54-50.
Following a North Central miss, Gliesmann got the rebound and hit one of two free throws with 2 seconds left to ice it for the Trojans (13-4 4-1 MIC).
“Bri made some free throws and got a huge rebound right there at the end,” Sanders said. “A few weeks ago, I think that was a game we lose. We’re practicing better. I’m proud of the way the girls responded (to North Central’s rally).”
Gliesmann said the players knew North Central wouldn’t go away easily.
“We knew they were going to be physical so we would have to handle the pressure,” Gliesmann said.
The Trojans led 33-18 at halftime, but the Panthers (7-11, 0-4) came charging back in the third quarter with a 19-8 edge.
“We did some things in the first half that really bothered them,” Sanders said. “So at halftime we knew they were talking about our different defenses and our pressure and how they were going to adjust to it. (The Panthers) did a good job. We didn’t execute our defense as well as we wanted to in the second half. I think it was a large part that they made the adjustments. We tried to keep them out of the paint but they are so quick.
“Our two points of emphasis were keeping them out of the paint and rebounding and they did both. They’re young but they’re feisty. We knew they weren’t going to give up. We had to take their best punch. They did a lot of things that were hard to guard.”
Junior guard Lauren Rau led the Trojans with 14 points, hitting all six free throws in the fourth quarter. Center Grove was 15-of-20 overall from the foul line.
“We’ve been practicing on free throws all week,” Rau said. “We needed to hit them to help our composure. I think we finished together and that was really important. We kind of hit a slump but we’re getting back to where we need to be heading into the postseason soon.”
Trojans senior forward Regan Wentland added 12 points and nine rebounds.
Center Grove’s next game is Saturday at Roncalli.