The obvious drawback to six seniors being on the same boys basketball roster is only five can fit in a starting lineup on senior night.
This minor dilemma worked out as just fine as Center Grove squad closed its regular season Friday night with an impressive 56-31 victory against former conference rival Terre Haute North.
Zach Hahn’s first season as coach resulted in a 13-9 record, with the Trojans taking a four-game winning streak into next week’s Class 4A sectional at Whiteland.
“More than anything it’s always great to send seniors off with a win, but I could not believe the community support. What a great way to end your high school career,” Hahn said.
“It’s almost a sellout crowd on the lower level. And the student section was the best it’s been all year. The seniors deserve it. They truly do.”
All six Center Grove seniors cracked the scoring column, with nine players in all doing so and a total of 12 getting playing time.
Six-foot-4 guard Michael Benkert tallied 12 of his game-high 16 points in the opening half. Then it was Joey Lenkey with 10, Carson Lee with six and a game-best six rebounds, post Alec Leiter with four points and guard Anderson McCoy and backup center Sam Hendershott with two apiece.
McCoy, the final Trojans senior to crack the scoring column with a breakaway layup with 3:12 remaining in the game, was glad he and his classmates made the most of their final game on their home court.
“It’s weird because after four years of all the watching and playing. And now it’s your moment and with the six seniors … it’s big,” McCoy said.
“These last three weeks that we’ve had have been tremendous. We’ve been building up on some big wins, and now we have a lot of momentum going into sectionals. We can’t play on our home court anymore, but we’re still fighting.”
There were no senior night jitters for Center Grove, which showed it meant business from the outset by jumping out to a 9-0 lead before a Patriots timeout at 4:13 of the first quarter finally settled the visitors down.
Terre Haute North pulled to within three points midway through the second, but an 8-0 Trojans scoring run again provided Hahn’s team some breathing room.
Leading 26-14 at halftime, the Trojans opened the third stanza with a 13-4 scoring flurry to essentially end whatever suspense still remained. Center Grove’s largest lead of the night came late in the fourth with a 53-27 upper hand.
Juniors Bryce Brown and Trevor Harrell had solid performances off the bench for the Trojans with eight and seven points, respectively.
Defensively, Center Grove forced 15 Terre Haute North turnovers, limited the Patriots to abysmal shooting — 10 of 42 (.238) — and didn’t allow a single opposing player more than eight points (a distinction shared by junior forward Keshaun Sandifer and junior guard Braxton Poore).
The Trojans, meanwhile, converted 23 of 40 field-goal tries for a toasty .575.
Center Grove harassed the Patriots into seven first-quarter turnovers and nine for the half. Center Grove took much care of the ball with only three opening-half miscues.
Terre Haute North made only 5 of 20 field goal tries before the half compared to Center Grove’s 10-of-22 (.455).
Center Grove enters postseason play Tuesday night against New Palestine at the Whiteland Sectional. The Patriots battle Avon the same evening at the Martinsville Sectional.