Center Grove’s boys basketball team put its best defense forward in Tuesday night’s 52-47 defeat of visiting Perry Meridian.
By limiting the Falcons to 16-of-45 field-goal shooting, the Trojans were able to snap a three-game losing skid and even their record at 3-3.
Freshman post Trayce Jackson-Davis led Center Grove with team-highs in points (12) and rebounds (eight). Fellow frosh Lucas Doyle contributed eight points, while three players (Drew Conrad, Bailey Barrett and Nate McLain) added seven apiece.
Despite subpar free-throw shooting down the stretch by Center Grove, the program managed to hang on for its sixth victory against Perry Meridian in the past eight meetings.
“Late in the game I really would like for our team to hold the ball and get possessions when you’re up five with a minute to go and ice the game. Sometimes free throws don’t fall, but what I liked most about our team tonight is we held them at the end,” Trojans coach Zach Hahn said.
“That’s what’s really important that even when things aren’t going your way you get defensive stops. I thought tonight, overall, we did that.”
Center Grove led by eight points at the half, but the Falcons crept to within three points on five occasions during the second half.
An alley-oop slam dunk by 6-foot-5 Perry Meridian junior center Nate Mills with 4:26 remaining in the fourth period made the score 47-44. The Trojans responded with Jackson-Davis putting back his own miss, and the Falcons could get no closer.
“If you knew in your mind they were going to miss some of those free throws you probably would have done some different things like get the ball inside. But you’re trying to play quick and we just didn’t cash in on them,” Perry Meridian coach Brent Keck said.
“I thought we competed, but Center Grove’s got a nice club. They may be young in some areas, but they’ve got kids that can shoot it.”
Mills finished as the game’s top scorer with 20 points. He was the only Falcon to score in double-figures.
The Trojans would win the battle of the glass 27-24, as senior forward Bryce Brown contributed six rebounds, with Conrad and Barrett corralling four apiece.
“More than anything we have to continue to hang our hat on defense. Our team can shoot the ball this year, but to beat really good teams you’ve got to get stops defensively. For us, learning to build on consecutive stops is huge,” Hahn said.
What had been a tightly contested first half — eight lead changes and four ties — saw Center Grove close the second quarter with a 14-4 scoring run to lead 36-28 at intermission.
A Jackson-Davis basket tied the score at 24-all at the 4:16 mark, opening the door for a pair of Trevor Harrell free throws, Brown’s 3-pointer from the right corner and two more Harrell charities after the senior guard made a steal.
McLain drained his second triple of the half with 10.4 seconds left to account for the halftime score following two Perry Meridian hoops and a baseline jumper from Doyle.
Next up for the Trojans are four consecutive road games – Greenwood (Dec. 30), Cathedral (Jan. 2), Franklin (Jan. 5) and Carmel (Jan. 8) – before playing in the Johnson County Tournament at Indian Creek from Jan. 12-16.
Perry Meridian (1-5) is off until Dec. 29 when the Falcons compete in the four-team Shelbyville Tournament.