INDIANAPOLIS

Center Grove senior Cassidy Hardin admitted that she and her teammates might have been looking ahead a little bit to a potential sectional title game against Martinsville and Hardin’s future Purdue teammate, Kayana Traylor.

Fortunately for the Trojans, they were able to live in the present for just long enough Friday night to secure that date with the Artesians tonight.

Center Grove used its defense to create the offense it needed after a sluggish first half, creating some points off turnovers that made the difference in a 55-43 win against a stubborn young Franklin club.

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“We’re playing with fire right now,” Trojans coach Kevin Stuckmeyer said. “We can’t have those types of starts.”

Martinsville, meanwhile, didn’t struggle much at all in the second semifinal, scoring early and often in a 75-44 rout of Greenwood. Traylor scored 21 of her game-high 23 points in the first half for the Artesians.

As was the case in its opening-round game against Whiteland, Center Grove (19-6) had its hands full in the first half before getting some separation in the third quarter thanks to its defense. Hardin scored five quick points as the Trojans opened the period with a 10-2 run to grab their first double-digit advantage at 31-21.

The Grizzly Cubs hung tough and cut the deficit to five on a couple of occasions, the last on a 3-pointer by Maya Elliott early in the fourth that made it 39-34. But Emma Utterback then converted consecutive steals into baskets, setting off an 8-2 run that left the outcome effectively decided by the 4:41 mark.

Hardin, who finished with 12 points, said the defensive pressure needed to get picked up after the Trojans labored through a cold-shooting first half.

“They were in a zone, and that’s a shooter’s dream — except when we’re not hitting, which we weren’t,” she said. “So at halftime, I had to kind of get on the team; our defense wasn’t up to par with what we wanted, and even though it wasn’t translating on the offensive end, we knew that we could control the defensive end. So we definitely harped on what we could do on defense to make our offense easier.”

Utterback paced Center Grove with 14 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, while Ella Thompson added 13.

Franklin got 14 points apiece from Hailee Robbins and the team’s lone senior, Maya Elliott, who hit four 3-pointers in her final game.

Grizzly Cubs coach Josh Sabol hopes that his young players can build off of the competitive showing they put forth for most of Friday night.

“I think that’s going to give our girls confidence moving forward that we can play with really good teams,” Sabol said.

The nightcap wasn’t in doubt for long, as Traylor dominated the Woodmen from the opening tip. The Miss Basketball candidate scored 13 points in the first quarter and had 20 by the 5:53 mark of the second quarter, pushing the Artesians out to a 29-8 lead. Greenwood (11-13) couldn’t get any closer than 19 for the rest of the night.

“When she plays like that, we don’t have much of a chance,” Greenwood coach Bill Torgerson said of Traylor.

Senior Leah Moore closed out her career with 13 points for the Woodmen, which showed vast improvement after a four-win season a year ago. Bailee Taft chipped in 10.

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.