Coming into its Class 4A girls basketball sectional, host Martinsville had plenty of motivation.
Not only had the Artesians been upset on their home floor early in last year’s tournament, but this year’s draw put them in a first-round game against Center Grove — who had pulled out a 56-55 victory at the buzzer when the teams met back in December.
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Martinsville hadn’t forgotten, and it left nothing to chance, roaring out to a quick lead and using another run early in the third quarter to create sufficient separation for a 62-43 win against the Trojans on Wednesday.
The Artesians (19-4) move on to face Whiteland in a semifinal game Friday.
“Once we found out that we had them, right off the bat we were ready to go,” said Martinsville junior Kayana Traylor, who led all scorers with 19 points. “We were ready to play. We were definitely ready to get the payback from that last buzzer-beater.”
The hosts steamrolled over the Trojans in the opening quarter and kept the momentum going into the second, stretching their lead out to 20-3 on a Traylor basket with just under five minutes remaining in the half.
“We let them get into the flow way too early, and we looked like the tight team,” Center Grove coach Shawn Sanders said. “That didn’t make any sense to me. I didn’t understand why we were tight, because we played in big games all year.”
Center Grove, though, fought its way back, putting together a major surge at the end of the second quarter. Back-to-back scores by Cassidy Hardin and a stepback 3 by Val Clark helped fuel an 18-4 blitz that cut the deficit all the way down to three 24-21 with four seconds left before the intermission.
Any momentum that the Trojans had built up, however, was quickly halted when Traylor calmly drained a shot from midcourt at the horn. Martinsville came out and scored the first 13 points of the third period, a run keyed by a pair of 3-pointers from Merideth Deckard, to regain command at 40-21.
“That was kind of a game-changer,” said Allison Utterback, who led Center Grove with 15 points. “That was a good shot by Kayana; there’s not much you can do about that.”
A brief flurry led by Utterback helped Center Grove cut it from 20 to 13, but a three-point play by Traylor with 1.4 seconds left in the third again put a damper on any comeback hopes. The Artesians maintained a double-digit cushion throughout the final quarter.
Traylor, who is verbally committed to play alongside Hardin at Purdue in two years, had plenty of help. Deckard had 16 points for the Artesians, while Jessica Nix added 13.
Hardin and Emma Utterback each chipped in nine points for the Trojans (14-9), who return three of their top seven scorers but lose a group of seniors that led the way to a pair of sectional titles.
“It’s a group that I love,” Sanders said of a departing quintet that includes Clark, Allison Utterback, Emma LeMasters, Madelyn Bitterling and Claire Contos. “I don’t mind saying that I love these guys, and I’m sad that we weren’t able to send them off on a high note.”