The Center Grove boys basketball team supposedly had arrived a year early when it won a sectional title last season.
The version that Trojan fans had been waiting on showed up Tuesday night.
Trayce Jackson-Davis poured in 33 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and Center Grove shored up its defense in the second half to pull away for a season-opening 80-61 victory at Franklin.
“They’ve got some good shooters, so they put us on our heels a little bit,” Center Grove coach Zach Hahn said. “I thought our guys responded well to our halftime conversation and they made good adjustments offensively.”
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Up by three after a high-scoring first half, the Trojans began to separate themselves a bit as the game progressed. Jackson-Davis went coast to coast twice in a row early in the third period to give the visitors a 48-41 edge, and he opened the fourth quarter with consecutive hoops — the second of those a hard dunk after using a spin move along the baseline — to stretch the margin to 66-53. Franklin got no closer than 12 the rest of the way.
Jackson-Davis, already a matchup nightmare for most teams at 6-foot-9, has become a much more dangerous player since last season, stretching his shooting range and significantly improving his ballhandling. With Indiana University coach Archie Miller among those in attendance, Jackson-Davis did nearly as much of his damage in the open court Tuesday night as he did down low.
“That was definitely a big part of my game stretching from last year to this year, jump shooting and dribbling the ball,” Jackson-Davis said. “Coach Hahn said I was free to do that this year, so I started working on it.”
Both teams shot well during a first half that was tight throughout. Jackson-Davis, showing off that improved jumper, had 17 points in the first 16 minutes to help Center Grove take a 42-39 edge into the intermission.
The Grizzly Cubs, meanwhile, did much of their damage from long range, hitting six 3-pointers in the first two quarters. Guards Blaine Wentzell, Cory Richards and Reece Thomson each connected twice from beyond the arc.
“We were able to weather their 3-point storm a little bit, and in the second half,” Hahn said. “I felt like holding them to 22 after they scored almost 40 in the first half was a good change.”
Spencer Piercefield, best known for his outside shooting, got most of his 15 points going to the hole for Center Grove. Nate McLain contributed 13 points in the win, nine of them in the second quarter.
Richards finished with 17 points to lead four Franklin players in double figures. Thomson and Wentzell had 16 apiece, while Drew Byerly added 10.