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Center Grove regroups after injury; Bench helps Trojans win

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Center Grove’s girls basketball coach Shawn Sanders suspected he had a deep team this season. He found out for sure Tuesday, but not the way he or his team wanted.

The Trojans’ starting point guard, senior Shelby Shaffer lay on the floor writhing in pain midway through the second quarter with apparent knee and ankle injuries after battling for a loose ball.

She didn’t return, but her teammates more than made up for her absence. They outscored host Southport 39-24 after Shaffer exited and cruised to a 65-48 victory in the season-opener for both teams.

Center Grove, which returned all five starters from this past year’s team, turned to its bench for key contributions. Sophomore Bri Gliesmann led the Trojans reserves with 10 rebounds and 13 points, while freshman Lauren Rau and sophomore Jessica Norris logged valuable minutes after Shaffer exited.

Shaffer was standing and walking on her own along the Center Grove bench as the game progressed, and Sanders seemed optimistic she could return to the lineup soon. In the meantime, he was proud of the way his team responded.

“That shows a little bit about our depth,” Sanders said. “When you have a starter go down in a very physical game like that, it’s nice to have freshmen and sophomores step up.”

The teams combined to shoot 62 free throws, but the Trojans took better advantage of their opportunities. Center Grove hit 22 of 30 attempts, while Southport hit just 18 of 32. Gliesmann hit 7 of 8 free throws, and teammate Lauren Weidman hit 6 of 7 en route to a game-high 19 points.

“This game is always a tough battle,” Weidman said of Southport, which has played Center Grove in the season-opener three straight seasons. “We knew they would need to foul, and we put a ton of focus on free throws. We responded very well.”

Southport trailed 36-33 with 5:25 remaining in the third quarter, but Center Grove’s bench took over offensively from there. The Trojans strung together an 11-0 run, with Gliesmann scoring eight points and fellow bench player Bobbie Clayton adding the other three, to extend the lead to 47-33. Southport never drew closer than 10 points after that.

“We’ve been waiting for that kind of game from Bri,” Sanders said. “She’s probably our most physical player, and when we started pressing, that’s her kind of game, when she can get out in open space.”

Ali Line added 11 points and seven rebounds for the Trojans, while Madison Kolthoff scored eight points and grabbed six boards.

Bria Wright led Southport with 17 points but hit just 4 of 14 field-goal attempts. JaBreena Gardner scored 13 point and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds for the Cardinals, who shot just 24.1 percent from the floor (13 of 54).

Center Grove plays its home-opener Thursday against Bloomington North.

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