Lawrence North earned its reputation for being among the state’s tallest boys basketball teams long before any of its current players were born.
On Friday, the Wildcats, led by 6-foot-9 senior post Ra Kpedi and 6-7 junior forward Kevin Easley, lived up to the rep in a 61-48 victory at Center Grove. Easley scored 18 points for Lawrence North, while Kpedi double-doubled his way to 16 points and 10 rebounds. Junior guard Antwaan Cushingberry supplied 12 points.
The win improved coach Jack Keefer’s squad to 11-4 overall and 3-1 in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference standings.
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Center Grove dropped to 9-6 and 1-3.
Coming off last week’s emotional triumph against Class 4A No. 1 North Central, the Wildcats seemed ripe for a letdown on Friday.
It didn’t happen. After falling behind early 3-2, Lawrence North closed the opening period on a 17-8 scoring run.
“I was proud of the kids. They really played hard, and they played to win,” Keefer said. “They made good decisions and played good defense. I don’t know what (Center Grove) ended up shooting, but it wasn’t very good, I don’t think.”
The Trojans finished the night 15 of 43 from the floor (.349) compared to Lawrence North’s 26 of 44 (.591). The Wildcats won the rebounding battle 25-16.
Center Grove sophomore guard Spencer Piercefield misfired on his first four jump shots, but hit his next four — all 3-pointers — on his way to a game-high 21 points. Next for the Trojans was sophomore center Trayce Jackson-Davis’s 10 points and six boards.
Senior swingman Travis Roehling nearly reached double-digits, finishing with nine points.
Center Grove’s inability to make high-percentage shots and Lawrence North’s ferocity on the glass were the major differences, according to Trojans coach Zach Hahn.
“I would say we missed 10 to 12 layups, and then we missed a bunch of open ‘3’s,” Hahn said. “We got shots that we wanted.
“The biggest area of concern was offensive rebounds. We talked about Kpedi being the best rebounder we’ve played all year, and he went out and proved it. We didn’t get a body into him, and you can’t out jump guys that are 6-9 and strong.”
Trailing by as many as 11 points in the first half, Center Grove behind Piercefield’s long-range marksmanship closed to within six, but was behind 34-26 at intermission.
Easley and Kpedi together worked inside to produce all but three of Lawrence North’s 19 first-period points. Center Grove remained relatively close with seven first-half triples – Piercefield’s four and three from Roehling.
A Piercefield trey at 5:51 of the third quarter got the Trojans to within seven at 36-29.
The Wildcats responded with a Kpedi bucket, Cushingberry’s conventional 3-point sequence and Easley’s rebound basket for a 14-point spread. Lawrence North would go on to lead by as many as 17 points (47-30) with Center Grove only able to get it down to 11 on three occasions in the fourth.
Only three more home games remain for the Trojans this season, including tonight when they welcome Avon. It’s the first meeting between the Trojans and Orioles since the 2003-04 season.