Center Grove had been favored to win a sectional girls basketball championship a year ago, but Martinsville blew the Trojans out of the gym in the opening round.
Saturday night offered Center Grove a shot at redemption, and they didn’t miss.
Cassidy Hardin scored 10 of her 18 points in the first quarter as the Trojans seized an early lead and never let go during a 60-46 victory against the Artesians in the final of the Class 4A Franklin Central Sectional.
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Center Grove (20-6) will face unbeaten Castle this Saturday at noon in a regional semifinal at Columbus North.
“That loss last year definitely left a sour taste in our mouth, and it motivated us all year to come back to this point and to be able to get this win,” junior guard Ella Thompson said.
The Trojans opened the game on an 8-0 run, with senior Amy Davis knocking down a pair of shots and Thompson hitting a 3-pointer. Hardin then scored the team’s final 10 points of the quarter, including a three-point play that made it 18-9.
Center Grove kept the Artesians (17-9) at arm’s length the rest of the way, even weathering a 5:40 scoring drought in the second quarter. Martinsville got as close as 33-28 in the third quarter, but reverse layups from Davis and Thompson, the latter at the buzzer, restored the Trojans’ nine-point edge going into the fourth.
“We just stayed calm,” Hardin said. “We knew there was going to be momentum swings both ways. They could go on a run, but then we had just as much potential to go on a run ourselves.”
Two keys for the Trojans were crisp ball movement — there was an assist on almost every one of the team’s 17 made field goals, with Emma Utterback dishing out seven herself — and a solid team effort on defense. Center Grove limited Martinsville star Kayana Traylor to 16 points.
“We knew what we had to do to at least make her earn it,” Center Grove coach Kevin Stuckmeyer said.
Thompson finished with 14 points for Center Grove, while Davis added 12.
The victory was particularly sweet for Hardin, who was not only looking to atone for last year’s sectional defeat but also got the last word in her personal back-and-forth with Traylor. The two likely Indiana All-Stars will play together next winter at Purdue.
“I’m excited to play with her next year,” Hardin said. “It’s going to be a lot easier when we’re on the same team.”