Anyone refusing to think fast starts aren’t important in boys basketball didn’t witness Center Grove’s game Friday night.
Unfortunately for the Trojans, they weren’t the ones quick out of the gate.
Making good on its first seven field-goal attempts, Ben Davis jumped on the home team early and held off a furious Center Grove rally to post a 58-54 victory.
The win improved coach Mark James’ Giants to 6-5 overall and 3-3 in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference standings. The Trojans fall to 7-6 and 0-2.
Ben Davis never once trailed, using its hot hand from the floor to open up a 16-7 advantage with 3:29 remaining in the first period.
Ironically, the Giants’ initial misfire came on a barely contested layup opportunity.
Ben Davis twice in the second quarter pushed the spread to 14 at 26-12 and 31-17 before the Trojans whittled it to single-digits by halftime (32-23).
Center Grove fared poorly with its first-half shooting touch, converting only 6 of 22 (.273) compared to Ben Davis’ 12 of 21 (.571). The Giants also finished the first half owning a 13-11 advantage on the boards.
The Trojans continued to chip away at the lead in the third stanza, once getting it to five (38-33).
Three-pointers from senior guard Tyler Bryant and 6-foot-4 junior forward Michael Benkert allowed Center Grove to establish momentum early in the fourth.
Benkert’s deep trey from right in front of his team’s bench at 6:29 forced James to signal timeout as the Trojans were now down only 43-39.
Ben Davis countered with a 6-2 scoring run to go back up eight, but two free throws from 6-4 sophomore Bryce Brown and another courtesy of Benkert brought the lead back to only five.
Forced to foul, the Trojans watched the Giants knock down 9 of 12 free-throw attempts over the game’s final 1:57.
Twice during this span did Center Grove cut the lead to three points. The first came on freshman guard Titus McCoy’s triple (53-50) with 26.5 seconds left and guard Anderson McCoy’s two charities (55-52) at 14.8.
After Ben Davis senior guard delivered one of two free throws at 13.6 seconds, Brown’s 10-foot baseline jumper pulled the Trojans to 56-54 with only 6.1 ticks remaining.
Center Grove immediately fouled 6-6 Ben Davis forward Brennan Gillis at 4.6 seconds. The junior calmly converted both for the final spread.
Gillis led the Giants with 17 points and five rebounds, while the 6-1 Beaty added 14 points. Benkert led all scorers with 18 points, followed by Bryant with 15. Six-four junior post Al Leiter made good on his starting assignment with four points and a game-high seven boards with Brown adding six points in a reserve role.
Ben Davis made 20 of 37 field-goal tries (.541) compared to Center Grove’s 16 of 43 (.372).
Next up for the Trojans are two difficult MIC road tests at Class 4A No. 2 Carmel on Tuesday and Friday’s trip to Lawrence North.