Trojans bounce back strong against Falcons

It appeared Center Grove’s 68-43 girls’ basketball loss Saturday at Roncalli was carrying over to Tuesday’s home matchup against Perry Meridian.

The Trojans trailed 12-6 with 45 seconds remaining in the first quarter. After an 8-0 start to the season, Center Grove had only gone 5-5 since and needed a spark.

Allison Utterback provided a small one, then the Trojans’ defense provided a big one. Jessica Norris then served up an offensive explosion.

They combined to produce a 30-5 Center Grove spurt over the next seven minutes that led to a 61-39 Trojans victory.

Utterback, a bench player for Center Grove, scored the quarter’s final four points, her only points of the game.

She connected on a pair of free throws with 23 seconds remaining in the period, and a steal and layup 14 seconds later.

The Trojans came out attacking defensively to start the second quarter, playing a full-court press and smothering Falcon defenders in their half-court offense.

That led to 11 Perry Meridian turnovers in the second quarter.

Norris provided the rest. She hit four consecutive 3-pointers during one stretch and scored 20 of her game-high 26 points in the second quarter. By halftime, Center Grove (14-5) led 39-20, and Perry Meridian (8-9) never drew closer than 17 points after that.

“Once I hit the first one, I just kept feeling it,” said Norris, who hit 6 of 8 from 3-point range in the second quarter and 8 of 13 overall after going scoreless in the first period. “Everyone was finding me, and that’s what we do well – find whoever’s hot.”

Center Grove shot just 21 of 51 overall (41.2 percent), but hit 11 of 18 in the second quarter (61.1 percent). Perry Meridian hit 5 of 8 from the floor in the first quarter but connected on only 2 of 8 in the second quarter and finished at 15 of 37 (40.5 percent).

The Falcons turned the ball over 28 times to Center Grove’s 18.

After falling behind 12-6, the Trojans outscored the Falcons 55-27 the rest of the way.

“In the second quarter, we switched up our defense and Jess got hot, but (her teammates) kept finding her,” Trojans coach Shawn Sanders said. “We were disappointed with the way we started the game, but we count on the bench players to take us to another gear, and they did that.”

Regan Wentland added 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds for Center Grove. Teammate Ali Line grabbed six rebounds to go with four points.

Brianna Adams led Perry Meridian with 15 points, while D’Anjrea Allen added 11 points and a team-best six rebounds for the Falcons.

Sanders said he believes fatigue played a role in Center Grove’s recent struggles, including Tuesday’s first quarter. Tuesday’s game was the Trojans’ third in six days and their sixth in 18 days.

“It’s been hard on everybody,” Norris said. “We’ve been going slower in practices and games, but (Tuesday) we played through it. We decided to put Saturday’s game behind us. We’ve worked too hard to let that get into our heads.”

Center Grove hosts Metropolitan Conference rival Ben Davis on Saturday.

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Adam Wire is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.