Center Grove boys basketball coach Zach Hahn keeps seeing his basketball team make positive strides.

During their run to the Johnson County tournament title, Hahn said his Trojans took another huge step. The Trojans defeated Whiteland 55-45 in Saturday night’s title game at Greenwood Community High School.

“Any time you beat a good team you start to get a little momentum. We were able to get by two really good teams. Greenwood is a great offensive team. Whiteland is a great offensive and defensive team, and they’re really physical,” Hahn said.

“You have to give credit to Whiteland for battling and by the same token give credit to our guys because we stuck to a game plan. They executed and we made free throws in the final one-and-a-half minutes and that’s what sealed the deal.”

Center Grove hit all eight free throws in the final 1:30 of the fourth quarter.

“The people in the stands might have been worried,” senior guard Michael Benkert said. “All of our coaching staff and everyone who has been with us. We had faith. We do free throws in the morning. We worked hard. We deserved this.”

Benkert, who signed to play for Belmont University next season, led the Trojans with 19 points against Whiteland (6-7), but was slowed by two fouls in the first quarter.

Junior guard Trevor Harrell came off the bench to hit four 3-pointers, including three in the opening period.

“Our guys are starting to understand the mentality that it’s a team game. They all know Mike is a great player. He’s a Division I player. But at the end of the day, guys are going to get in foul trouble,” Hahn said.

“There is going to be a lot of adversity through the course of the season. We handled it great (Saturday night) because we had the mentality of the next man up. Trevor came in there and there was no hesitation. We continued to run our stuff and he made big shots for us.”

Hahn said his Trojans (9-4) are adjusting well to his system.

“I think guys are buying into the process, especially defensively,” Hahn said. “We still have a lot of lapses offensively where we either take a quick shot or we make a bad pass. Some of it is the other team is forcing us to do those things. Some of it is us getting rid of the ball and we shouldn’t. But I couldn’t be more proud of where our guys are after only being with them seven or eight months now.”

Hahn said there is still a long season ahead with nine regular-season games remaining before the sectional begins at Whiteland. Franklin Community and Greenwood are also in that Class 4A sectional.

“It’s only going to get tougher because now we’re going to play all these teams again in the sectional,” Hahn said. “They’ve all seen us and know what we do. We’ve got the rest of the MIC schedule. We’re going to take in the moment and be happy with it. Then we are going to come in Monday and start working again.”

Benkert said he expects the Trojans will build confidence from capturing the Johnson County crown.

“This victory is going to be a season-changing thing for us,” Benkert said.

Indian Creek captured the third-place game Saturday, beating Greenwood by a 74-68 margin. Spencer Wood led the Braves with 22 points. Prior to that, Cameron Rigley scored 17 and Andrew Hartkorn 15 as Franklin downed Edinburgh, 69-61, for fifth place.

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Mark Ambrogi is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.