Regardless of the opponent, the strategy implemented by Carmel’s boys basketball team is almost always the same.
The Greyhounds build a lead, spread the floor to look for backdoor cuts and/or force the opponent to foul and then proceed to attempt a ridiculous amount of free throws.
The state’s second-ranked squad in Class 4A checked all three boxes Friday night at Center Grove in a 62-54 victory.
Placing three players in double figures, Carmel, while not at its peak from the charity stripe (16 of 28), did enough to extend its winning streak to six against the Trojans.
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Thirteen of the Greyhounds’ converted free throws were in the fourth period. Center Grove twice closed to within eight points early in the quarter and seven late in the game, but no closer.
Center Grove is now 6-3 overall and 0-2 in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference standings.
“I thought we played really hard tonight. We did a good job covering (Sterling) Brown and (John Michael) Mulloy. That was kind of our game plan, to take those guys out, but their role players hit shots,” Trojans coach Zach Hahn said.
“When they do that they’re really, really tough to beat. There’s a reason they’re No. 2 in the state. Really, it’s the end of quarters that killed us.”
Carmel finished the opening quarter with consecutive 3-pointers that quickly grew a one-point lead to seven. Two baskets from close range at the end of the second stretched what had been a six-point advantage to 10 at the intermission.
Center Grove sophomore post Trayce Jackson-Davis led all scorers with 16 points, while classmate Spencer Piercefield, a 6-foot guard, added 15. Junior guard Jalen Whack led Carmel with 12, while forward PJ Baron and Brown scored 11 apiece.
Despite the win, Carmel coach Scott Heady wasn’t pleased with his team’s 18 turnovers and 12 misfires from the free-throw line.
“Overall, defensively, I thought we were pretty good in the first half. You have a 10-point lead despite having nine turnovers,” Heady said. “We go out in the third quarter and we have six turnovers, and we give up 20-whatever points in the fourth quarter (24) and continue to miss free throws.
“We just weren’t sharp. When you get a 12-, 14-point lead, that’s when you put the game away. We had opportunities, and we just didn’t. Give Center Grove credit. They kept plugging and they didn’t quit.”
Early on, the Greyhounds were leading 22-11 at 5:07 of the second quarter when Piercefield’s baseline floater kicked off a 7-2 Trojans’ scoring run.
Center Grove’s other points came on baskets from Travis Roehling, the second a baseline 3-pointer making it 24-18. The momentum proved short-lived as Baron’s strong baseline drive and a Whack putback at the horn put the ’Hounds back in control.
The Trojans last defeated a Carmel team during the 2010-11 regular season, winning at home, 41-38.
Both squads return to the court this evening. The Trojans travel to Franklin Central, while the Greyhounds host Hamilton County rival Westfield.