Trojans hold off Braves to make it to semifinals

With only one starter back from last season’s 20-7 sectional championship team, sophomore guard Cassidy Hardin knows many don’t expect much from the Center Grove High School girls basketball team.

“There’s lots of people that doubted us on how well we’re going to do and (say) we’re rebuilding,” Hardin said. “We don’t think that at all. We’re here to prove everyone wrong because they are underestimating us. This is a little of what we can do. We’re still molding ourselves to each other.”

Hardin sank two big 3-pointers in the fourth quarter in the host Trojans’ 54-42 victory against Indian Creek on Tuesday night in the Johnson County Tournament. Center Grove (2-2) will play Whiteland (1-1) in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday.

Hardin’s first 3-pointer pushed the lead to 46-36 with just under four minutes to go. Her next 3-pointer practically sealed it, giving the Trojans a 49-36 edge.

“We weren’t keen on scoring at the point because we were trying to waste time,” said Hardin, who made 3 of 7 3-pointers. “My coach told me I have the green light. I was like, all right, I know I’m going to make them, so I shot them.”

Hardin, who was playing with four fouls, finished with 11 points. Junior guard Madelyn Bitterling was high for the Trojans with 12 points, hitting 4 of 5 shots and 3 of 4 free throws. Senior guard Lauren Rau added 10 points.

“We started off rocky this year, but I feel we’re improving,” Bitterling said. “We’re working as a team better.”

After the score was tied at 11-all after the first quarter, the Trojans (2-2) held a 19-6 edge in the third quarter to take a 30-17 lead at halftime.

Trojans coach Shawn Sanders said the players were out of position a lot in the first quarter.

“We had seven fouls in the first quarter, that was the biggest issue,” Sanders said.

“We’ve got to learn to play defense and not give up fouls. One of our biggest killers is the number of times we put teams on the foul line. As coaches we’re working on defensive schemes where we’re looking for better position and not using our hands so often.”

Indian Creek hit 15 of 20 free throws. Center Grove made 10 of 14 from the foul line.

Senior guard Candace Danz led the Braves (4-1) with 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting. Sophomore forward Celina McElroy added 12 points, hitting 4-of-6 shots and 4-of-5 free throws.

“We had one bad quarter,” Braves coach Dan Burkman said. “Outside of the second quarter, we outscored them for the other three quarters. It was that and not being smart down the stretch with our decision-making. Turnovers just killed us. At lot of them were in the second quarter, but we can’t finish with 20 turnovers.”

Burkman was disappointed because he said he believed his girls had a good shot to win.

“Walking in the gym I believed we could win this game,” Burkman said. “But I think our girls still doubted it. Until they start believing in themselves like I do, they’re not going to win games like this.”

Sanders said his team is still maturing.

“We’re inexperienced, but I love our players,” Sanders said. “I thought we did a better job (Tuesday) than other times.”

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Mark Ambrogi is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.