Greenwood and Center Grove didn’t meet in the Johnson County Tournament this season but more than made up for it with the drama both teams produced in Tuesday’s match-up at the Trojans’ gym.
Center Grove rallied from a 15-point third-quarter deficit to take a five-point lead with 5:12 remaining, but the Woodmen responded by scoring the game’s final 10 points to pull away for a 78-71 win.
The win ended Greenwood’s regular season at 13-9, while the Trojans fell to 10-11 with one more regular-season game to play (Friday vs. Lawrence North).
The outcome looked clear until Center Grove mounted its furious comeback.
Woodmen star guard Holly Hoopingarner went to the bench with her fourth foul with 5:27 remaining in the third quarter and Greenwood leading, 49-36.
Center Grove was two points into a 9-0 run, which swelled to a 26-7 stretch that lasted until Hoopingarner returned with 6:20 remaining in the game. By that point, the Trojans had built a 60-56 lead.
They led 65-60 with 5:12 to play, and that’s when Hoopingarner – along with an aggressive, trapping Greenwood defense – took over. She either scored or assisted on the Woodmen’s next eight points.
Then teammate Megan Overton pushed Greenwood over the top, hitting two free throws to cut the lead to 71-70, followed by a baseline jumper with 2:25 left to give the Woodmen the lead for good.
“That’s a sectional game,” Greenwood coach Lee Taft said of the ebbs and flows and intensity. “You’re going to be behind, and you’ve got to figure out a way to come back. We had some girls playing out of character (during Center Grove’s comeback), but that’s a good win.”
Hoopingarner finished with 19 points, despite foul trouble. She also sat the last four minutes of the first half after picking up her third foul, but her teammates kept on scoring during her first bench stint.
Overton, Alex Kincaid and Brooke Uebersetzig each finished with 16 points, and pulled down six, eight and six rebounds, respectively.
“I have to be a lot more careful,” Hoopingarner said of her foul difficulties. “But this win solidifies who we are as a team. We may be down five or 10 points, but we’re not going to give up.”
Center Grove played without senior guard Lauren Rau, who had an appendectomy on Friday.
In her absence, sophomore Cassidy Hardin led everyone and matched her career-high with 29 points, including 17 in the second half. She scored all 17 of those points in an 8:30 stretch, and she outscored Greenwood 17-16 during that time span.
Madelyn Bitterling added 15 points for the Trojans, including 11 in the second half.
“She’s still growing as a player,” Trojans coach Shawn Sanders said of Hardin. “Without Lauren, we had to figure out who would be ready to step in. She’s always been our energy player. We have to be ready to play in order to compete with teams the level of Greenwood, and early on, we didn’t play with the intensity level we needed.
“When you give up 78 points, you’re going to lose.”
Greenwood shot 58 percent in the first half and 52.7 overall from the floor (29 of 55), including 12 of 24 from 3-point range.