After being pushed to the brink by host Greenwood in its Class 4A boys basketball sectional semifinal on Friday, Center Grove left nothing to chance in Saturday’s title game against Franklin.
Spencer Piercefield scored 18 of his game-high 21 points in the first half, and the Trojans used that and some more airtight defense to cruise to a 74-39 victory.
Center Grove (19-6) will face upstart Evansville North in the semifinal round of the Seymour Regional this Saturday. New Albany and Bloomington South play in the other semifinal.
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“We talk about defense fueling offense, and that was definitely the story tonight,” Piercefield said after the sectional win. “We got some quick stops and were able to get out in transition and do what we want offensively.”
Piercefield gave the Trojans all of the breathing room they needed when he scored 11 consecutive points over a span of 2:18 in the first period. His steal and layup at the end of that spurt — which also included three 3-point shots — gave Center Grove a 14-4 lead with 2:39 to go in the opening quarter.
“When I hit my first one the guys did a really good job driving and kicking and finding me,” Piercefield said, “so after that it was pretty easy just to catch and shoot like I do every day.”
Life got no better for Franklin (15-10) in the second quarter, as another Piercefield 3 and a three-point play by Trayce Jackson-Davis capped a 10-0 run that made it 34-11 with 2:01 left in the half. A late Ben Greller 3-pointer and a Nate McLain floater at the horn stretched Center Grove’s advantage to 41-13 heading into the intermission.
Even with its second unit on the floor, the Trojans continued to pile on. Consecutive baskets down low from Lucas Doyle, followed by another Greller 3, finished off another 11-0 burst that expanded the margin to 53-17. Center Grove still led by 35 at the end of the third quarter, and the Grizzly Cubs never got closer than 30 after that.
Senior Cameron Fresher kept the energy of the Trojan crowd up by scoring nine fourth-quarter points, including his team’s eighth and final 3-pointer.
No matter who was on the court, Franklin just never seemed to have any answers for Center Grove.
“We don’t line up well,” Grizzly Cubs coach Brad Dickey said. “We have bad challenges inside with their size, and then their guards just feel comfortable to do whatever they want. They outrun us, they outshoot us and they put together an excellent game.”
Jackson-Davis collected 12 points and 11 rebounds despite sitting most of the second half for the Trojans, while McLain added 11 points in the win. Cory Richards led the Grizzly Cubs — who lose just one senior in reserve post player Nate Sellers — with 10 points.
Center Grove now turns its attention to the regional, where it hopes to build on the experience it gained in last year’s narrow semifinal loss to New Albany.
“Going there last year definitely gave us what we needed to prepare for this year,” McLain said. “We know the atmosphere; we’re excited to play in that atmosphere again.”