BY DAVID CAMPBELL
For the Daily Journal

MOORESVILLE

Center Grove’s dominant defense made up for an uneven offensive performance, leading the Trojans to a 41-34 boys basketball win at Mooresville on Tuesday.

Center Grove committed 15 turnovers and hit just 14 shots from the floor to allow Mooresville to hang around. But the Trojans’ defense never took a play off, and that was the difference in Center Grove picking up its 14th win of the season.

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“I think our guys have hung their hat on defense all year. For as good an offense as we can be, we’ve been really, really good on the defensive end,” Center Grove coach Zach Hahn said. “It’s not one or two guys; it’s seven our eight guys in our rotation coming in and really making an effort to do what we need to do to win games.”

Center Grove (14-5) was never seriously threatened in the game, but without a high-scoring offense, the Trojans also never really put the game away.

Mooresville, intent on slowing the pace down, did not attempt a shot until nearly four minutes had passed in the first quarter and hit only four field goals in the first 16 minutes.

The Trojans played Mooresville’s style for one quarter but took over the game in the second, outscoring the Pioneers 14-6 over that span to take a 21-10 lead into the half.

Baskets by Nate McLain and Trayce Jackson-Davis to open the third put the Trojans ahead by 15 (25-10) but they were unable to build on that lead, taking a 29-16 lead into the fourth.

Mooresville (8-11) stayed closed thanks to Center Grove’s inability to make shots. The Trojans led by as many as 16 in the fourth before a late Pioneer rally, fueled by four fourth-quarter 3s, made the final margin just seven.

It was just the latest example of a disturbing trend for Center Grove, which has watched teams mount late rallies after the Trojans seemingly relax down the stretch. Lawrence Central scored 11 points in the final 50 seconds last Friday in a game Center Grove led by 20.

“The last couple of games I thought we really guarded and then in the final minute, teams are scoring eight to 10 points,” Hahn said. “Whether they’re making bank shots from 27 feet or pull-up 3s from the volleyball line, they’re making shots and we’re losing our aggressiveness down the stretch.”

Spencer Piercefield hit three 3-pointers and scored 15 points to lead Center Grove while Jackson-Davis added 14. Jon Eineman led Mooresville with 13 points.

Center Grove returns home Friday to host North Central in its final Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference game of the season. The Trojans then wrap up the regular season next Tuesday at home against Brownsburg and Feb. 22 at Columbus North.