Center Grove’s girls basketball team knew the tournament it’s in was sure to become more difficult with each victory.

On Thursday, the Trojans made quick work of Terre Haute North 63-16 to surge into the winner’s bracket of the annual Columbus North Invitational.

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Led by senior Cassidy Hardin’s 19 points and 11 off the bench from sophomore Claire Rake, Center Grove upped its record to 11-2. It faces Mooresville (8-6) in this morning’s 11:45 semifinal.

The game will be played at North’s auxiliary gymnasium at the same time the host Bull Dogs (11-2) square off against Class 3A No. 1 Northwestern (14-1) in the other semifinal in the main gym.

At stake is a berth in this evening’s championship contest.

First-year coach Kevin Stuckmeyer said he thinks the win against the Patriots, a former member of the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference, was a good way to start his team’s three-game experience.

Center Grove didn’t take Terre Haute North lightly, and it showed.

“We preach in our preparation that you prepare for every team like you should,” he said. “Terre Haute North’s record isn’t great, but they’re a pretty solid team. We were able to set the tone early and take them out of what they wanted to do offensively.”

The win marked the return of junior guard Emma Utterback, who missed the previous four games due to mononucleosis. Utterback finished with 10 points and tied senior forward Karinna Frankel for rebounding honors with five.

Stuckmeyer put eight different players on the court in the first quarter alone as the Trojans scored the first seven points and led 15-1 through eight minutes.

By halftime, nine Center Grove players had seen action with the squad building a 29-9 lead at the break.

Thirteen of Hardin’s points and eight of Utterback’s came in the first half, which saw the Patriots turn the basketball over 16 times. Terre Haute North (3-12) finished with 28 turnovers and was outscored 23-0 in the third quarter.

The Patriots didn’t reach double-figures until sophomore guard Emma Saunders hit the front end of a one-and-one free throw situation with 7 minutes left in the fourth to make it 55-10.

“Definitely it’s the mindset going into the game,” Utterback said. “You come in and watch film and know that maybe it’s not the same competition level that normally play in the MIC. But you still have to have the mindset that it’s like any other team.

“We had to set the tone early and let (Terre Haute North) know that we came to play.”

All 12 Center Grove players saw the floor, with eight scoring no less than three points.

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at