Eleven men considered to be Lawrence North royalty were in the house Friday night to watch their coach shoot for career win No. 700.
The suspense lasted but a few minutes.
Wildcats’ coach Jack Keefer watched as his pumped-up squad raced to a 15-0 early lead against Center Grove on their way to an 83-35 blowout in Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference action.
Pregame festivities centered around honoring players, coaches and managers from LN’s 1989 state championship team — all of whom stuck around to take in what was their alma mater’s most impressive performance of the season.
“(Lawrence North) had a lot going for them tonight,” Trojans coach Cliff Hawkins said. “I’m not sure any team in the state could’ve beaten them.”
Center Grove never got the chance, trailing 19-3 after one quarter and watching it only get worse from there.
The Wildcats held a 43-14 advantage at halftime and were up 69-29 through three periods. LN’s largest lead was 52 points (83-31) late in the final quarter.
When exactly did Hawkins sense major trouble?
“When it was 4-0,” he said. “(LN) just went after the ball, and we were just looking at it.”
Lawrence North absolutely owned the boards, out-rebounding Center Grove 43-17. The Wildcats’ repeated attempts at second, third and sometimes fourth chances on the interior doomed the visitors.
Keefer’s club also shot the basketball remarkably well, converting 33 of 57 (.579) field goal attempts compared to the Trojans’ blustery 10 of 52 (.192). By game’s end, LN had made 28 2-point attempts, Center Grove only four.
“We’re going to have to really clean some things up,” Hawkins said. “Tonight with them getting 28 2-point field goals and us getting four, they just absolutely destroyed our interior.”
The loss evened the Trojans season record at 7-7. They are 0-3 in the MIC standings entering Tuesday’s 6 p.m. makeup game at defending two-time Class 4A state champion Carmel.
Lawrence North, which was led by the 18 points of 6-foot-5 forward D’Tavian Walker and senior guard Daeshon Francis’s 15, improved to 7-6 and 2-3 in MIC play.
“That was by far our best performance of the season,” said Keefer, 70, who is in his 38th season and the only boys basketball coach the school has ever had.
“We just had a great deal of intensity. We had eight offensive boards in the first quarter alone. This group has lost so many close games this season, but they didn’t hang their head. I’m really proud of them.”
Center Grove placed one player in double-figures as 6-4 junior Michael Benkert tallied 10 points. Hawkins midway through the third period sat his starters for the remainder of the game, which enabled reserve guard Anderson McCoy (eight points) to make his presence felt in the second half.
The Trojans’ disastrous first half included 4-of-25 shooting from the floor, 10 turnovers and a 20-8 deficit on the glass.
Trailing by 29 points at the half, Center Grove never got closer. Lawrence North scored the first seven points of the third quarter to end any shot at what would have been the miracle of all comebacks.