Earlier this season, Nate McLain went from being a starter for Center Grove’s boys basketball team to an experienced spark off the bench.
It wasn’t intended as a demotion, nor did McLain treat it as such. And as Tuesday’s 19-point performance so convincingly demonstrated, the junior guard has adapted just fine.
Tying teammate Travis Roehling, a 6-foot-1 senior forward, for game scoring honors, McLain buried three 3-pointers and made 8 of 10 from the free throw line to help lift the Trojans to a 67-58 victory at Brownsburg.
It was Center Grove’s third consecutive win against the Bulldogs, who came in 15-5 and riding a four-game win streak.
“Nate played very well. He played strong and came in and guarded ‘3’ (Bulldogs sophomore guard Cameron Alford) a lot in the second half for us, and that’s what he’s capable of,” Trojans coach Zach Hahn said. “I couldn’t be more proud of Nate because he’s been a starter and now I’m asking him to be a bench guy.
“It hasn’t fazed him. In fact, he’s coming in and giving us energy. That’s been a big part of our success this season. Guys are just buying into what their role is.”
McLain is more about the big picture than anything else.
The Trojans are 14-7 — the program’s most wins since the Class 4A sectional championship squad of 2010-11 posted a 21-5 mark — and he’s one of the reasons why.
“I did start at the beginning of the year, and then they moved Ben Nicoson to starting point guard. I think I like coming off the bench. I think there’s a lot less pressure,” McLain said.
“Whatever the team wants and whatever it takes for us to win, I’m OK with it.”
Nine of McLain’s points came in the opening half as the Trojans led 27-18 at intermission.
Brownsburg knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to take an early 6-2 lead, but the Trojans went from one point down to a 12-8 lead on free throws by sophomore center Trayce Jackson-Davis and junior forward Joey Klaasen along with a strong drive to the basket by Roehling.
Four triples in the second period — including two from McLain — enabled Center Grove to build as much as an 11-point cushion at 25-14 at the 3:17 mark.
In the second half, Brownsburg would close to within five points on two occasions in the fourth, the last being 61-56 with 1:03 remaining.
Center Grove responded with two charities from sophomore guard Spencer Piercefield (12 points) and four straight by McLain.
On Thursday, the Trojans celebrate senior night when they welcome Columbus North. Hahn’s team then experiences a breather of sorts having drawn a bye for Sectional 13 at Franklin Central High School.
Center Grove on March 3 plays the winner of the first-round game between Greenwood and the host Flashes.