Center Grove senior standout Cassidy Hardin and Martinsville senior star Kayana Traylor will be teammates at Purdue University next year, so when they play each other, the game takes on a different dynamic.
Hardin admitted after Tuesday’s game against the Artesians that she has a little extra motivation when she faces Traylor and Martinsville. But Hardin also had just a little more help from her teammates than Traylor did this time, and it turned out to be the difference.
Hardin outscored Traylor 15-11 despite Traylor guarding her most of the game, but Center Grove’s team defensive effort played a major role in shutting down Martinsville’s Miss Basketball candidate. That, along with a 15-9 turnover disparity in the Trojans’ favor, played a large role in Center Grove’s 45-37 road victory.
“Kayana’s a great player, and I’m excited to be her teammate next year, so with her guarding me, I made it a goal to see what I could do against her,” said Hardin, who scored her 1,000th career point during the game. “We definitely clicked (defensively) in this game. We knew who we needed to stop, and Ella (Thompson) needed some help (guarding Traylor).”
Thompson guarded Traylor effectively most of the night, but Hardin and others took their turns on the Purdue recruit as well. Traylor, who entered play averaging 23.3 points per game, hit just 3 of 11 from the floor, including 1 of 6 from 3-point range.
Hardin struggled from the floor by her standards as well, hitting 5 of 15 overall and 2 of 10 from 3-point range, but her points always seemed to come at key moments. She scored five straight points in the third quarter to cap a 9-0 Center Grove run that gave the Trojans a 26-20 lead.
Martinsville eventually erased that deficit, and led 33-31 with 4:58 to play, but Hardin’s last points came on a 3-pointer with 1:52 left that gave Center Grove (10-1) the lead for good at 38-35. Thompson and Amy Davis each scored four points and combined to hit all six of their free throw tries down the stretch.
“Our girls’ composure and mental toughness was a big difference,” Center Grove coach Kevin Stuckmeyer said. “We made a lot of intangible plays the average fan might not see, such as screens and clear-outs.”
Davis finished with 12 points, including seven in the fourth quarter, for the Trojans, while Thompson added 11 points and a game-high eight rebounds from her point guard position.
While Center Grove is happy with the win, the Trojans plan to keep it in proper perspective. They also defeated Martinsville during the regular season last year (56-55 on Dec. 13), but the Artesians returned the favor in the sectional (62-43 in the first round).
“We just want to keep building on the little things,” Stuckmeyer said. “If we do that, we can compete with anybody.”