No. 3 Wildcats too much for Trojans

The Lawrence North High School girls basketball team uses its athletic skills to come at opponents in waves.

Thursday night, the Class 4A No. 3 Wildcats bowled over host Center Grove 72-35 with one crushing 29-0 run.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been part of team that put up 29 unanswered points against a team like Center Grove,” Wildcats coach Chris Giffin said. “I know they were missing their point guard (Lauren Rau) and (are) not as strong as they were the last few years, but to do that against anyone is impressive.”

Rau, the Trojans’ lone senior, missed her second straight game after having an appendectomy a week ago.

Giffin was most impressed that his Wildcats are now 27-1 in Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference the past four years, winning all four tiles.

“Just one loss in four years in this conference is something to be proud of,” said Giffin, whose team is 18-3 and 7-0 in the MIC.

Trojans coach Shawn Sanders didn’t know how bad the run was until after the game.

Center Grove (10-12, 1-5 MIC) had closed the deficit to 19-16 on a 3-pointer by Amy Davis in the second quarter. Helped by a few Trojans turnovers, Lawrence North closed the first half with a 13-0 run to take a 32-16 halftime lead.

The Wildcats began the second half with a 16-0 spurt to expand the lead 48-16. With 3:45 left in the third quarter, the Trojans junior Madelyn Bitterling hit a 3-pointer to end the scoreless streak.

“They’re obviously very good,” Sanders said. “I was happy with the way we started in the first half. I felt we quit competing at the end of the half. That was our halftime speech. We laid down a little bit.

“They’re a state (title) contender for sure, but I don’t like to think we lay down for everyone. You’re going to fight to the end and sprint to the finish line.”

Sanders said the effort at the start of the second half was better but not good enough to compete with the Wildcats.

“We want to say we’re in the elite, but we’re not close yet,” Sanders said. “We don’t do the things it takes to compete every play. I like the potential of this group, but we haven’t figured out what it takes to be an elite team.”

Senior Amber Morgan led the Wildcats with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Senior guard Lauren Dickerson followed with 14 points, hitting 4 of 9 3-pointers. Senior Ae’Rianna Harris, a 6-1 post player, dominated inside with 13 points and 14 rebounds (seven offensive, seven defensive).

The Wildcats started off slow shooting wise, leading 12-6 after one quarter. The Wildcats made 29 of 61 shots (8 of 17 3-pointers).

“Once you get in a rhythm, it’s hard to get out of it,” Sanders said of the Wildcats’ offense. “We turned it over and they got some easy layups, and then they got some offensive rebounds.

“Harris is unbelievable. There were times we thought as long as we’re on the inside it’s going to be an over-the-back (call) or we’re going to out jump her. That’s just not going to happen.

“We have to learn to play with big-time players like that. We had inside position but we didn’t get a really good block out.”

The Wildcats held a 45-17 rebounding edge.

“We would have had to play perfectly (to win),” Sanders said.

Bitterling and Allison Utterback shared the scoring lead for the Trojans with nine points, each with three 3-pointers. The Trojans were 12 of 39 from the field, 9 of 24 from 3-point range. Center Grove hit its only two free throw attempts.

Sanders isn’t sure if Rau will be recovered in time to play in the Class 4A Center Grove Sectional a week from today.

“The (first-round) bye helps us,” said Sanders, whose team will play the Franklin-Martinsville winner. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”

Sanders said selfishly the coaches would love to see Rau return but added her health is the important thing.

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Mark Ambrogi is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.