Center Grove girls basketball coach Shawn Sanders has a lot of respect for Franklin Central.
With the way the Flashes played defense Tuesday, it’s not hard to see his point.
The Flashes held Center Grove to 20 points through three quarters and hit 20 of 30 free throws in the fourth quarter to take a 48-40 victory against Class 4A No. 7 Center Grove during an opening-round game at the Whiteland Sectional.
Franklin Central (15-4) handed the Trojans (16-4) two of their four losses this season, also beating them 55-51 in overtime on Dec. 27. It plays Franklin in Friday’s first semifinal at 6 p.m. at Whiteland.
“(The Flashes) are just so stinking disciplined,” Sanders said. “And I don’t know for sure if there’s a program that I respect more than what ... I mean, (Franklin Central coach Brian Hacker) has got one senior, one junior and then all the rest of those girls are freshmen and sophomores. And he has a starter out.
“And the fact that they came out and played defense the way they played defense is just remarkable to me. He’s one of the good guys in coaching, and he does a really good job with his program.”
Franklin Central frustrated the Trojans’ offense, not allowing them many chances inside, holding them to 13-of-38 shooting and forcing 14 turnovers. And not many of the made field goals were open looks.
“For the most part, they make you earn every single thing on offense,” Sanders said.
Defensively, Center Grove did what it had to do, holding the Flashes to 26 points through three quarters before it had to foul in the fourth and put them on the line.
Franklin Central made just 10 of 34 field goals but connected on 25 of 40 free throws.
Center Grove struggled on offense.
“We were trying to force the action a little bit,” Sanders said. “We call it hunting for stuff. Hunting for your drives. Hunting for this. Hunting for that. At times, they were hunting for things that weren’t there.”
Trailing 19-13 at halftime, the Trojans couldn’t get much going in the third, committing six turnovers and scoring seven points.
After senior Bobbie Clayton’s bucket, they pulled to within five points at 30-25 midway through the fourth.
But Franklin Central used a 9-0 run to take a 39-25 lead with 1:33 remaining.
Franklin Central freshman Ashlyn Huffman scored a game-high 16 points, and junior Ali Line led Center Grove with 12 points and nine rebounds.
Center Grove’s two seniors, Madi Kolthoff and Clayton, have been with Sanders for four of his five years as Center Grove’s coach.
“Those two girls have meant so much to me, to our program, to me personally,” he said. “It’s hard to think about the fact that they’re done.”
The seniors won a sectional title their freshmen season. But Franklin Central, which won last season’s sectional title, has now knocked the Trojans out in consecutive seasons.
“Franklin Central, they just outplayed us. Franklin Central was a better team tonight. And there’s just no two ways about it,” Sanders said.