Center Grove’s boys basketball team might be on the verge of hitting its stride.
While that might not necessarily qualify as a Christmas present for Trojans coach Cliff Hawkins, his squad’s modest three-game winning streak at least has the makings of a decent stocking stuffer.
The Trojans improved to 5-3 overall with Friday night’s 70-51 victory against visiting Greenwood. It marked Center Grove’s 10th-consecutive conquest of its county rival, the most recent Woodmen triumph coming in February 2006.
Center Grove needed a strong second-half showing to turn away Greenwood, which had a 30-25 lead with 3:36 remaining before halftime. A 10-0 Trojans scoring run to close the quarter got the hosts on track, momentum they carried into the third with a 14-3 burst to open that period.
“Our guys finally focused on playing the game the way it should be played instead of trying to blow them out of the water. I thought our kids were prepared, but when they got out there and things didn’t unfold the way they wanted, it started to unfold,” said Hawkins.
“You also have to give Greenwood credit. They had a very good plan, and I was really impressed with their defense and the play of (Jaren) Hornbeak and No. 52 (Shane Roberts).”
Greenwood connected on 10 of its first 15 field-goal attempts to take a 24-20 lead after backup guard Alex Ault drained his second consecutive 3-pointer. The Trojans responded with five straight on a Brady Brown triple and Troy Vorhies’ rebound bucket.
Raddell Waddy’s baseline trey put the Woodmen back on top. Hornbeak’s hoop and ensuing free throw had Greenwood ahead 30-25 at 3:36 of the second. That’s when Center Grove began its 10-0 run, DeMarcus Nathan’s layup preceding a Brown hoop, forward Michael Benkert’s three-point sequence and Tyler Bryant’s baseline 3-pointer.
After its torrid start, Greenwood (0-6) made good on only 8 of 30 field-goal tries the rest of the way.
“The first half of the game was played the way we needed it to be played. The only thing that changes the score is making baskets, and in the second half they were making them, and we weren’t,” Woodmen coach Bruce Hensley said. “We can’t afford to have empty possessions. We don’t have a lot of room for error.”
Hornbeak, a 5-foot-11 junior guard, scored 11 of his team-high 19 points in the opening half to spark Greenwood. The 6-2 Roberts, another junior, came off the bench to provide 14 points while giving his team some much-needed interior presence.
Center Grove’s Brown knocked down 6 of 10 attempts from behind the 3-point stripe to lead all scorers with 23 points. Benkert, the Trojans’ 6-4 sophomore swingman, came through with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while the 6-3 Vorhies scrapped his way to nine points and a game-best 14 boards.
Another facet of Center Grove’s latest performance hailed by its coach was its free-throw shooting. The Trojans were 13 of 14 in that department.
Greenwood returns to the hardwood this evening as it plays host to Beech Grove. Center Grove doesn’t play again until next Friday night when it visits Perry Meridian.