DAILY JOURNAL SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
Center Grove dispensed with the drama early in Friday’s Johnson County Boys Basketball Tournament semifinal against host Greenwood.
The Trojans hope the way they did it benefits them down the road, starting with tonight’s championship game against Whiteland.
Center Grove’s bench outscored its starters 31-26 in Friday’s 57-29 win against the Woodmen.
Eleven of the 12 Center Grove players who saw action scored, and bench players accounted for three of the Trojans’ top five scorers.
“The bench is definitely going to be a key if we’re going to win big games,” said Center Grove senior starter Michael Benkert, who tied reserve Bailey Barrett for game-high scoring honors with 13 points.
While both teams emptied their benches early in the fourth quarter, Center Grove’s backups didn’t necessarily stockpile their points during that period.
The Trojans’ bench scored 20 points in the first three quarters. In addition to Barrett’s 13, Sam Hendershott added seven points and Trevor Harrell scored six for Center Grove, both off the bench.
“Those guys can all play. It’s just a matter of those guys deciding to bring it,” Trojans’ coach Zach Hahn said. “Barrett was physical. He had guys hanging on him, but he set the tone offensively early.”
Center Grove (8-4), which entered on a two-game losing streak, gradually pulled away, building leads of 14-5, 22-10 and 28-12 in the first half. The Trojans erased any Greenwood comeback hopes with an 11-0 run that spanned the late third and early fourth quarters, building a 41-21 lead to a 52-21 edge.
The Trojans shot 53.5 percent from the floor (23 of 43) and committed just seven turnovers.
At one point late in the first half, the Woodmen had nine turnovers and Center Grove had none. The Trojans’ first two turnovers came on offensive fouls.
Greenwood, meanwhile, labored through a 9-of-34 shooting night (26.5 percent) and totaled 17 turnovers.
Alex Rapp led the Woodmen (3-9) with nine points on three 3-pointers.
“Give (Center Grove) a lot of credit. They played hard, tough and physical, but did it the right way,” Greenwood coach Bruce Hensley said. “We don’t play offense hard enough, and we’ve got to learn to play the game at a different pace.
“I’m interested to see how we react to what happened (Friday).”
The Woodmen will play Indian Creek in tonight’s third-place game at 5:45 p.m.
The Braves lost to Whiteland 67-61 in Friday’s first semifinal game.
The championship final marks the second time in less than a month that Center Grove and Whiteland have clashed. The Trojans beat the Warriors 50-47 on Dec. 19 at Whiteland.