For the Daily Journal
Before Center Grove tipped off Friday at Class 4A No. 5 North Central, Panthers standout Kris Wilkes received a plaque recognizing his McDonald’s All-American honor.
Then, Wilkes proceeded to show the Trojans how he earned it.
Wilkes, a 6-foot-8 UCLA recruit, scored from everywhere on the floor, pouring in 35 points on 14-of-19 shooting. That, along with a large turnover disparity and a dominant first quarter by the Panthers, enabled the hosts to cruise to a 74-63 Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference win.
Wilkes outscored the Trojans by himself 11-6 in the first quarter, as Center Grove, saddled with immediate foul trouble, struggled to inbound the ball and stop the Panthers’ inside game. Trayce Jackson-Davis, the Trojans’ 6-8 sophomore, registered three blocks in the first quarter and five in the game, but those weren’t enough to keep North Central from attacking the rim.
After Center Grove built a 6-4 lead, the Panthers responded by scoring the game’s next 16 points. Wilkes scored half of those points as the Trojans committed nine first-quarter turnovers.
Jackson-Davis, Joey Klaasen and Spencer Piercefield all picked up two first-quarter fouls, and Jackson-Davis was called for his third personal midway through the second quarter. Piercefield was whistled for his third just 18 seconds later.
North Central’s lead grew to 61-41 with 5:50 to play, but Center Grove (13-7, 2-5 MIC) made the final score look better with some solid 3-point shooting. The Trojans wound up shooting 26 of 48 overall (54.2 percent) after hitting just 2 of 12 (16.7 percent) in the first quarter. They hit 4 of 6 fourth-quarter 3-point tries, and 9 of 22 overall (40.9 percent).
Travis Roehling led Center Grove with 21 points and seven rebounds, with 16 of his points coming in the second half. Piercefield added 13 points (10 in the second half), Jackson-Davis added 12 (10 in the second half) and Klaasen chipped in 10 points.
Emmanuel Little scored 15 points and matched Wilkes’ team-high eight rebounds for North Central (19-3 overall, 5-2 MIC). Mateo Rivera added 11 points for the Panthers, who committed just one turnover in the first half and six for the game.
Friday’s game concluded MIC play for both teams. Center Grove returns to action Tuesday at Brownsburg.