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Center Grove prevails despite sluggish start

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Center Grove girls basketball coach Shawn Sanders had a touch of trepidation heading into Thursday’s game at Bloomington North.

With a messed-up schedule because of the snow, a chance to win the conference title and sectional play next week, the Trojans had a lot to think about.

“(The Trojans’) minds were everywhere but Bloomington North,” Sanders said.

But Class 4A No. 10 Center Grove played well enough with strong bench play and four players in double figures to take a 62-50 victory against the Cougars.

He knew the players would be excited for a chance to win the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference title when Center Grove (15-3) hosts Carmel at 7:30 p.m. tonight. But he also wanted them focused on the Cougars (8-14).

“I was afraid we were going to come in here and be overconfident, not take this game seriously,” Sanders said. “I thought it was a trap game.”

So Sanders wanted to use the first three minutes of the game to gauge how ready Center Grove was. Unfortunately, the first few minutes of the game didn’t look good.

Sanders called his first timeout after Bloomington North jumped out to a 5-0 lead just 1:30 into the game.

But the Trojans took control and led 29-20 at halftime, getting 18 points off 18 turnovers.

And they led 45-32 late in the third quarter before Bloomington North went on a 9-0 run to pull within 45-41 Center Grove entering the fourth.

But junior Regan Wentland scored seven of her 11 points in the fourth to help Center Grove pull away.

“I thought there were moments where we looked like we weren’t quite ready to play,” Sanders said. “But I also thought there was also moments where we looked really, really good to play. Our bench was phenomenal.”

Junior Jessica Norris came off the bench and led the team with 14 points, draining 3 of 4 3-pointers. Sanders had been waiting on that type of performance.

“She started shooting with confidence,” he said. “You could see the pressure that’s been on her for so many games was just lifted off of her. And she played phenomenal.”

Sophomore Lauren Rau scored 11 points, and junior Bri Gliesmann added 12 points for Center Grove, which recorded 11 steals.

Bloomington North made 8 of 22 3-pointers, with senior Erica Cassidy making three of them and leading the team with 14 points.

Center Grove drew Franklin Central in a first-round sectional game next Tuesday. But Sanders wants the team’s focus on Carmel tonight.

“To play (games) back-to-back like this is challenging,” he said. “But I think it’s a good experience for us because if we want to win a sectional championship, we’re going to have to do the same thing. You’re going to have to have a 24-hour turnaround.”

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