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Balancing act: Parity runs deep as local teams begin battling for title

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If a favorite exists at either of Johnson County’s two boys basketball sectionals, those programs have yet to step forward.

The six teams feeding Center Grove’s Class 4A venue are a combined 59-63.

In the Class A Edinburgh field, five of the eight participants accumulated at least nine regular-season victories.

“These are three good games somebody is going to have to play. I don’t see a favorite,” said fourth-year Edinburgh coach Drew Glentzer, whose Lancers play the first game against Morristown at 6 p.m. today. “Every team has that something they’re really good at, but they might struggle somewhere else.

“We could win (sectional), or we could lose the first game.”

A similar sentiment exists at Center Grove, where Franklin comes in with the best record (14-6) despite having dropped three of its final four regular-season games.

Franklin faces New Palestine in this evening’s opener. The Grizzly Cubs defeated the Dragons 64-53 at Franklin on Feb. 13.

Tonight’s second game at Center Grove places the host Trojans against county rival Whiteland. Center Grove beat the Warriors 65-49 on Dec. 20.

Center Grove is coming off an overtime win at Terre Haute North on Friday that snapped an eight-game losing streak, while Whiteland hammered Beech Grove 62-45 to establish its own momentum in its regular-season finale.

Second-year Warriors coach Matt Wadsworth likes the balance his team has displayed in recent weeks.

John Hubler, a 6-foot-5 senior swingman, continues to lead Whiteland in scoring (15.7) and 3-pointers (52). Six of his teammates average between 3.7 and 10.2 points per game.

Jacob Stidham, a 6-2 senior forward, scores at a 10.2 clip and leads Whiteland in rebounds (7.6 rpg). Sophomores Terr’e Moss and Tom Purdie average 6.2 and 5.9 points, respectively, and senior guard Trent Sandlin averages 5.5 ppg.

Whiteland also has benefited from the play of junior center Bryce Staker (4.4 ppg) and freshman guard Mike Valle (3.7 ppg)

“Offensively, I think we’re executing better. We’re a more-balanced offensive team since after the county tournament,” Wadsworth said. “The kids made a deliberate effort to move the basketball better.”

The Warriors opened the regular season averaging 48.8 points in their first six games but averaged 62.7 during their past six.

But to snap a four-game losing streak to Center Grove, the Warriors must produce defensively, particularly against 6-2 Trojans guard Tyler Bryant and 6-4 junior Michael Benkert.

Bryant poured in 25 points in the victory at Terre Haute North, including the game-winning 3-pointer in the extra session.

Franklin boasts three double-digit performers: senior front-line players Tyler Thomas (13.0), Bryce Platfoot (11.2) and Nick King (10.3). This group combined for 39 points in the first meeting against New Palestine.

Edinburgh’s Glentzer would prefer not to remember his team’s last showdown with Morristown, a 66-44 drubbing Jan. 31.

The Lancers shot miserably from the floor, making only 17 of 54 field-goal tries (.315) and 4 of 10 free throws. Morristown, meanwhile, converted 23 of 38 (.605) from the floor.

Now the Lancers have an opportunity for revenge on their own court at a time when it most matters.

“Morristown is a good team, but I kind of think that first game was one where they played their best and we played our worst,” Glentzer said. “I look forward to this being a good game.

“We’re at home, and they beat us the first time, which ought to give us incentive going into this one.”

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