Keys to success: Unheralded forwards deliver for Trojans

When opponents scout the Center Grove girls basketball team, it’s usually star guards Cassidy Hardin, Ella Thompson and Emma Utterback that draw their attention first.

What those teams don’t know, though, might be what hurts them.

Senior forwards Amy Davis and Karinna Frankel don’t jump off of the stat sheet, and they’re not the first players you notice on the game tape, either. But the unheralded duo has been essential to the Trojans’ success this season, and it doesn’t much matter to them whether you notice or not.

“My role as a player is to focus on winning,” Davis said. “I don’t really care too much about the points. I do the dirty work and stuff like that, and I’m fine with that. I want the win.”

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So far, the “dirty work” done by Davis and Frankel has helped the Trojans rack up 20 wins, matching the program’s highest total this century. Center Grove won its third sectional title in four years last weekend with a 60-46 victory against Martinsville.

Davis was a bit more visible than usual in that win, scoring 12 points and adding a key assist to help sink the Artesians. The performance was a reminder that if opponents leave Davis alone in the high post, they do so at their own risk.

“Her composure and her basketball IQ are so high that when she catches it, the game stops in her hands,” first-year Center Grove coach Kevin Stuckmeyer said. “She finds cutters, and she’s a really good shooter so you have to honor that. But she just calms us down when she catches and turns and faces and reads it.”

While Frankel and Davis are capable of contributing offensively, they might be most important defensively. The Trojans don’t have anyone taller than 5-foot-10 in their regular rotation, and the two undersized forwards are often tasked with defending such towering posts as 6-foot-3 Mackenzie Blazek of Whiteland or 6-5 Cydni Dodd of Warren Central.

Center Grove allows fewer than 40 points a game, so it seems to be working.

“It’s definitely tough,” Frankel said of the nightly grind in the paint. “Every team has a big of some kind and we don’t, but it’s fun when you get to knock them out of the tournament. It’s tough playing against them, but it feels good to win against them.”

“We know that it’s a challenge,” Davis added, “but we can overcome it.”

Stuckmeyer knows that most people who watch his team play don’t notice the little things that Davis and Frankel do — the screens, the passes, the bumping and grinding down low against much bigger players.

But he does. And with every step the Trojans take through the postseason, he’s more and more appreciative.

“Every intangible you can imagine between the two of them,” Stuckmeyer said. “Every unselfish bone, every willingness to just do what it takes to allow the team to succeed.

“They’re the epitome of being willing to put the outward accolades aside for the team victory.”

If you go

Class 4A Columbus North Regional

Saturday

Columbus East vs. Bedford North Lawrence, 10 a.m.

Castle vs. Center Grove, noon

Championship, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $7 per session, $10 for full day

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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.