Center Grove High School coach Shawn Sanders had no problems pinpointing the reason for his girls basketball team’s 22-point loss — 22 turnovers.
“That’s the game right there,” Sanders said. “The turnovers were the killer.”
The host Panthers capitalized on those Trojan turnovers en route to a 60-38 rout in a Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference contest Thursday night.
“North Central has been very good all year,” said Sanders, whose team’s record dropped to 9-9 and 1-4 in the MIC. “They’re a team that has scored in the 90s and they score off of their defense.
“They force teams into handling the ball.”
Sanders said turnovers have not been a problem for his team this season.
“It’s been our strength,” Sanders said. “So coming into the game, I thought we would be able to handle their pressure. So 22 (turnovers) surprises me a little bit. They fed off that and scored a lot of points off our turnovers.”
North Central (15-4, 3-1) led 14-12 after the first quarter but used a rash of Trojans turnovers to expand the lead to 29-18 at halftime.
“In the second quarter, we lost our rhythm, and the ball stopped going through the net,” Sanders said. “We really didn’t shoot the ball the rest of the game simply because we couldn’t get into a flow.
“They do a good job of keeping you from getting into a flow.”
The Trojans were 13 of 47 from the field, including 5 of 22 from 3-point range.
The Panthers kept the pressure on, building the cushion to 45-27 after three quarters.
Other than allowing some easy baskets off the turnovers, Sanders said the Trojans did a decent job defensively.
“I felt like in the half court, we did a really good job,” Sanders said. “Offensively, we couldn’t get anything going. You’re not going to win any games when you only score 38 points.”
Sophomore Cassidy Hardin and junior Madelyn Bitterling led the Trojans with nine points each. Junior Emma LeMasters added eight points, and senior Lauren Rau had seven.
Sophomores Taylor Ramey and Ajah Stallings each scored 16 for the Panthers. Freshman Rikki Harris added 10 points.
Both teams have only one senior regular.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Trojans, who host Class 4A No. 5 Roncalli (17-3) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
“Roncalli is going to be unbelievable,” Sanders said.
Sanders pointed out the Trojans also have tough MIC games left at Ben Davis on Jan. 23 and Class 4A No. 4 Lawrence North at home Jan. 29.
“It’s a buzzsaw (of a schedule), and we have to make sure we keep our composure and keep climbing the hill so we’re playing our best basketball at sectionals,” Sanders said. “Even though we did not play particularly well, I was encouraged by how hard they played. We completed all the way to the end.
“We’re showing signs of mental toughness now that I didn’t see a month ago. They’ve grown.”