Playing in front of a raucous home crowd, Greenwood did just about everything it needed to do in order to upset heavily favored Center Grove in Friday night’s Class 4A boys basketball sectional semifinal.
Unfortunately for the Woodmen, just about wasn’t quite enough. Frustrated at times by Greenwood’s deliberate pace and a superb all-around game from Jeffrey Reynolds, the Trojans nonetheless made key plays when they were needed and exited with a narrow 48-45 victory.
Center Grove (18-6) face Franklin for the sectional championship tonight.
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“I was really proud of our guys,” Center Grove coach Zach Hahn said. “We’ve lost a bunch of late ones, a bunch in overtime this year; I never saw fear. I only saw hunger and guys that wanted to continue to guard and make the right plays, and we did that late, and I think that was the difference.”
Spencer Piercefield hit two free throws with 8.4 seconds remaining to put the Trojans ahead by three, but it wasn’t until Isaiah Drew’s game-tying 3-point attempt came up short and Trayce Jackson-Davis secured the rebound at the buzzer that Center Grove could exhale.
Greenwood (14-9) came out intent on slowing the game down and getting more physical with Jackson-Davis down low, and for the most part those strategic moves had the desired effect. Jackson-Davis finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, but he was not the dominant figure that he had been when the Trojans coasted to a 66-51 win at Greenwood in late December.
“We kind of expected them to do that,” Center Grove senior Joey Klaasen said, “but we hadn’t really had that scenario from any team yet, so it was definitely something new. We just had to change throughout the game to stop it, and we were able to do that.”
Reynolds did everything he could to put the Woodmen in position to win. The 6-foot-6 center not only held his own on the defensive end, but he also scored a game-high 21 points, hitting five of Greenwood’s seven 3-pointers.
“I was feeling it,” Reynolds said. “If my shot was open, then I was probably going to take it.”
At the outset, the slowdown strategy appeared to be falling flat when Center Grove scored the first seven points of the game, but a Drew 3-pointer appeared to settle the Woodmen down, and they had gotten back within a bucket at 9-7 by the end of the first quarter.
Center Grove maintained the upper hand through halftime, taking a 23-18 lead into the locker room, but Greenwood crawled its way back within a point on Reynolds’ third 3-pointer of the night, and a 3 by Eric Moenkhaus with two seconds to go in the third had the home team down by just two, 36-34, to set up a tense final eight minutes.
Reynolds opened the fourth with a 3-pointer to give the Woodmen their only lead of the night at 37-36, but the Trojans regained the upper hand on a pair of Piercefield foul shots with 5:26 left, and appeared to seal the deal with consecutive scores by Joey Klaasen, the last of which made it 46-42 with 15.5 seconds left. But Reynolds hit one more 3 to keep hope alive for Greenwood, and the outcome remained in doubt until time ran out.
“I really felt good about our game plan,” Greenwood coach Joe Bradburn said. “I felt good about our guys’ focus all week. I know that we have guys that have had ups and downs throughout this season, but I know that they have it in them to pull it together, and I thought they put it together tonight.”
Piercefield matched Jackson-Davis’ 13 points to lead Center Grove, while Klaasen added half of his 12 in the fourth quarter. Moenkhaus finished with 10 points in his final game with the Woodmen.