The Center Grove gym isn’t equipped with panic buttons, not that Class 4A No. 1 Warren Central was in search of one.
Trailing by 13 points early in the third period, the Warriors did what undefeated teams do by remaining calm, chipping away at the deficit and finding a way to win, 50-42.
Coach Criss Beyers’ club, now 19-0 overall and 5-0 in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference, hurried the Trojans into 11 second-half turnovers and 19 for the game.
“We can’t make excuses. We had perfect offensive execution. We had perfect defensive execution, and their pressure ate us up in the second half,” Center Grove coach Zach Hahn said. “Warren was on its heels in the first half, and I felt like we played on our heels in the second half.
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“We didn’t change anything from first half to second half. We continued to tell them to be aggressive, get the ball in the paint, get post touches, guards attack and we ended up because of their pressure just passing the ball around the 3-point line. That’s when their deflections and steals happened.”
Down 32-19, the Warriors closed the third stanza with an 11-2 scoring run. They tied the game with 3:11 left in the fourth and took the lead for the first time in the game on senior guard Antwaan Cushingberry’s basket in close with 55.6 seconds remaining.
Center Grove was unable to respond, meaning Warren Central would notch its seventh consecutive victory in the series and its 40th win in the program’s past 42 regular-season games.
The Warriors were led by 6-foot-3 junior forward David Bell, one of the nation’s best high school wide receivers in football, with 15 points and five rebounds. Junior center Trayce Jackson-Davis led the Trojans with 14 points and 12 boards.
Senior guard Nate McLain delivered three 3-pointers on his way to 11 points for Center Grove (12-5, 2-2).
Beyers has seen too much of his team to know it’s never out of any game.
“We’ve been down in too many games. We haven’t shot the ball too well,” Beyers said. “But we never claimed to be an outside shooting team. Our defense has been constant and I really believe that we wear teams down over a period of time.
“Especially teams that don’t have a deep bench, I think we’re able to get them a little bit tired, and therefore they’re going to make more mistakes toward the end of the third quarter and in the fourth quarter.”
Center Grove never trailed in the opening half, scoring the game’s first six points, including Jackson-Davis’s two-handed slam at the 4:06 mark of the first quarter.
The Trojans stretched it to as much as a 13-point spread late in the second quarter, but Warriors backup Jalen Moore’s high-arching rebound hoop at the horn made it 28-17 at halftime.
Center Grove is back at home for its next game Feb. 9 as it welcomes Lawrence Central.