Scoring isn’t normally Regan Wentland’s chief concern.
“She’s the girl that wants to guard their best player on defense. She wants to get all the loose balls, deflections, the steals. She’s kind of our Scottie Pippen without the scoring. She fills up all the stat sheets, but it’s usually with the blue collar stuff,” Center Grove girls basketball coach Shawn Sanders said.
Wentland, a four-year starter, was 7 of 8 from the field en route to a team-high 17 points in Center Grove’s 58-33 rout of New Palestine in the Class 4A Sectional 13 championship at Greenwood High School on Saturday.
“She was unbelievable going for offensive rebounds and going to the basket. I told her at halftime, in four years I don’t think I’ve seen her this aggressive at going to the basket and finishing,” Sanders said.
“She was our leader. We needed someone to set the tone, and she set it right from beginning. Everyone jumped on her cape, and we went.”
Wentland scored 13 in the first half as Center Grove led the Dragons, 29-10, at halftime. The Trojans (20-6) will face two-time defending Class 4A state champion Bedford North Lawrence (25-0) around noon in Saturday’s regional semifinals at Bedford.
“I felt I was a lot more aggressive,” the 6-foot-1 Wentland said. “I knew I had an advantage to get to the rim.”
This was the first sectional title for Center Grove since 2011.
“I don’t think I realized how frustrating it was until my senior year when I knew it was all or nothing,” said Wentland, who has already signed with Indiana State University.
Sanders said he had some concerns after his Trojans topped Franklin Central 39-36 in Friday’s semifinals. The Flashes had eliminated Center Grove in the sectional opener the previous two seasons.
“My biggest fear was (Friday night) against Franklin Central was such a grinder that we would be mentally and physically exhausted,” Sanders said
“And I didn’t want us to look in the rear-view mirror and Franklin Central to be the highlight of this sectional for us. They’ve been the monkey on our back. I didn’t want them celebrating and not be worried about (New Palestine). I think the defense really helped us to get rolling.”
Wentland, one of four senior starters, said senior leadership was a big factor.
“Our seniors are definitely hungry for this,” Wentland said. “We made that point to our younger kids, and I think they followed.”
Senior Jessica Norris, who scored 12 points on 4 of 7 3-point shooting, agreed they were determined.
“We’ve had a chip on our shoulder because we hadn’t won a sectional yet,” Norris said. “We just came out hard and were determined to get it.”
Now the Trojans will get another crack against Bedford North Lawrence. The host Stars defeated them, 46-33, on Dec. 13.
“That’s one reason we scheduled them because if we were fortunate enough to play them in the regional, we didn’t want there to be an awe factor,” Sanders said.
“We’ve been through that. We played them pretty soundly. It’s a hostile environment there. We have the familiarity now. We’ve got nothing to lose. This is Bedford North Lawrence at their place. They’re supposed to beat us. So we’re going to play loose and give them everything we’ve got and come out swinging.”
Wentland said the earlier meeting helps the Trojans know what they must do.
“It’s basically just stopping their inside game, Jenna Allen and Dominique McBryde,” Wentland said. “As long as we stop them, we can contain the rest. We’re very eager for another shot.”