Senior Night festivities should take less time than usual when Center Grove’s girls basketball team wraps up its regular season at the end of January.

When it comes to the players, starting point guard Lauren Rau will have the spotlight to herself.

Surrounded by older, more- experienced teammates during previous seasons, the 5-foot-5 Rau, the lone non-senior starter for last year’s Class 4A regional qualifier that finished with a 20-7 record, is now running the show.

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“My role has changed this season because we’ve all never played together. We have to get to know each other and know how the others play,” said Rau, a three-year starter who finds herself on the Trojans’ varsity roster with seven juniors and a sophomore.

“It’s been a little bit of a challenge. Last year we all read each other so well, but we’re just not clicking yet. It takes time. It takes a whole (regular) season to get where you want to be.”

Center Grove opened its season Nov. 3 with a 64-39 loss at Plainfield. Rau led the Trojans with 12 points while dishing four assists and recording a steal.

According to Trojans coach Shawn Sanders, his trusted floor leader isn’t the team’s go-to player based solely on what grade she’s in.

Rau is showing and has always demonstrated leadership qualities, whether it’s on the basketball court, on the track (she’s been to the state finals the past two years in the 1,600-meter relay) or in the classroom (she carries a 3.76 grade-point average).

“No matter what the sport, Lauren was a leader last year. The biggest thing we’ve been working on is that she’s trying to take on so much responsibility this season trying to figure out how to play with new people,” Sanders said.

“I think it will get there. One, Lauren is just naturally talented. Secondly, she has an ultracompetitive spirit, and she sets the tone for her teammates and pushes them to be better.”

Rau isn’t just Center Grove’s voice on the floor but often off it, as well.

Signed to play women’s basketball at Lipscomb University, a Division I program of 4,600 students in Nashville, Tennessee, Rau more than once has demonstrated the perfect combination of grit and compassion.

“If one of her teammates has a problem, Lauren will be like, ‘I’ve got this, coach,’” Sanders said. “I’ve not had that kind of player very often. A leader who is tough when she needs to be and loving and caring when she needs to be.”

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.