Center Grove High School girls basketball coach Shawn Sanders isn’t always sure quite how junior guard Madelyn Bitterling manages to score so well inside.
“She’s crafty when she gets going toward the basket. She is wiry and winds her way into it,” Sanders said. “She’s always got these off-balanced shots, and she is shooting a high percentage around the rim. She is one of those girls that finds a way to get to the rim.”
Bitterling and Cassidy Hardin scored 15 points each to lead the visiting Trojans to a 61-43 win against Perry Meridian on Tuesday night.
The 5-foot-8 Bitterling hit 5 of 8 shots, including two 3-pointers and all four free throws. The 5-10 Hardin, who sank three 3-pointers, was only slowed by foul problems. She picked up her second foul late in the first quarter and ended up with four fouls.
“Cassidy is a guard playing against 6-foot, 6-2 or 6-3 (players),” Sanders said. “We’re asking her to front the post and be physical. She’s guarding out of position, but she is competitive and uses her positioning and basketball IQ really well. She does a really nice job, but because of her lack of size she gets herself into foul trouble.”
When she was out, Bitterling and Emma LeMasters picked up the scoring slack for the Trojans (10-10). LeMasters had 11 points.
Center Grove led 36-26 at halftime and increased the lead to 51-38 after three quarters.
Bitterling said the mission was to keep the pressure on.
“We don’t want them to catch up to us and it be a close game,” she said. “We usually let teams catch up to us and let it get close. This game we did good keeping a good lead.”
Center Grove led 12-2 en route a 22-9 lead after the first quarter.
“We started out too well because we got to a point where we thought it was all going to come that easy,” Sanders said. “I thought we kind of got in a rut there in the second quarter. It was a start we needed to have. We’re trying to get to the position that every game we play with that enthusiasm.”
Sanders said he was a bit disappointed by the defense early.
“They were getting to the paint almost every possession, which is something that we try to stop,” Sanders said. “Our defensive philosophy is to keep the ball out of the paint, and they were doing well early. Then I called a timeout and I challenged them, and we got seven stops in a row with no paint touches.”
The Trojans, who are off until hosting Greenwood on Jan. 26, were 19 of 52 from the field, but 10 of 23 from behind the 3-point line.
Perry Meridian (6-12) had 25 turnovers, nine more than the Trojans.
“We’ve had trouble with turnovers this season, but we’re getting at it,” Bitterling said. “We’re tightening up passes. I think we’re growing. Our goal is to win sectionals so we keep working towards that.”
Freshman Melody Johnson led the Falcons with 14 points.