Center Grove bristled while it worked Friday night.

Trojans players took the court at Whiteland sporting closely-cropped hair styles for the semifinals of the Johnson County boys basketball Tournament.

Head coach Zach Hahn looked the part, as well.

“The kids are always trying to find ways to come together. I thought it was a good idea, so I bought in,” said Hahn following Center Grove’s 67-45 romp over Greenwood.

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It sets up tonight’s championship game between the Trojans and the host Warriors.

Whiteland, the defending county champion, took care of business in Friday’s second semifinal, holding off Indian Creek 67-63.

Losers of their past two games coming in, Center Grove scored the game’s first three baskets, made 6 of 11 in the opening quarter and led comfortably 18-7.

The Woodmen spent the remainder of the game just trying to get back into it. Trailing by as many as 20 points (43-23) at 3:32 of the third, Greenwood got as close as 11 in the fourth.

Center’s Grove’s defensive tenacity at the outset simply made for too steep of a hill to scale.

“We did a really good job executing the scouting report,” Hahn said. “We’ve had glimpses of that all year, but really for eight minutes I thought we did a pretty good job.

“We had trouble late in the game because we’re fouling shooters and giving them lanes to drive in, but overall I thought we did pretty well.”

The Woodmen were their own worst enemy, making only 23 of 40 free throw attempts. They struggled from the floor, as well, converting 10 of 38 attempts (.263).

Greenwood coach Bruce Hensley could only shake his head afterward.

“It’s just something that’s plagued us all year. Coming into this game we hadn’t shot free throws well,” he said. “We had opportunities, and never got it where we could have got it had we made free throws.

“Sometimes you can overemphasize. Free throw shooting is mental. That’s the shot you’ve been taking since you were about third-grade. It’s just rhythm and it’s mental. More than anything, we’ve got to work on the mental side of it.”

Hensley concurred it was Center Grove’s ferocity at the start that ultimately decided the outcome.

“They smacked us in the mouth, no question about it,” he said. “You’ve got to give them credit. They played really well and played extremely hard. They played the way I think anybody would like to see a team play.”

Trojans’ sophomore guard Spencer Piercefield led all scorers with 21 points, a total that included three 3-pointers and a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe. Six-eight post Trayce Jackson-Davis added 10 points and a game-high 15 rebounds, while senior forward Travis Roehling scored 10 of his 14 points in the opening period.

Three games will be played at Whiteland today, starting with the fifth-place game between Franklin and Edinburgh at 4:30 p.m.

Greenwood and Indian Creek then battle for third-place at approximately 6 p.m. with Center Grove and Whiteland squaring off in the title contest.

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.