The Greenwood’s girls basketball team watched as its 21-point halftime lead nearly evaporated in the second half. Deauna Evans, the Woodmen’s best player in the first half, sat on the bench with a sprained ankle.
By all outward appearances, the Woodmen’s bid for sole possession of the Mid-State Conference championship was slipping away.
The Woodmen have played in so many close games over the past two seasons, Friday’s situation against visiting Decatur Central was a familiar one. They handled it the same way they have so many other tight contests.
The Hawks trimmed the lead to three with 2:13 remaining, but Greenwood wouldn’t let them get any closer.
The Woodmen hit 6 of 7 free throws down the stretch and did just enough defensively to keep Decatur Central at bay in a 50-43 victory.
The win clinched the Woodmen’s second consecutive outright conference title and an undefeated record in Mid-State play for the first time in school history. Had the Hawks won, they would have moved to 4-1 in league play and been in position to tie Greenwood for the conference title.
Instead, the Woodmen finished with a 6-0 conference mark and improved to 14-3 overall, while Decatur Central fell to 7-11 and 3-2.
“We’re pretty good at keeping our heads up and staying positive,” said Greenwood senior Chloe Orrvar, whose two free throws with 9.9 seconds remaining iced the game. “We’ve been in a lot of close games the last two years.
“We know how to finish games and we know they’re going to come down to free throws.”
Nine of the Woodmen’s 14 wins this season have come by 10 points or less, including eight of the past nine. Last season, Greenwood finished 20-3, and 12 of those wins were by victory margins of 10 points or less.
“Having close games is a learning experience,” Woodmen coach Debbie Guckenberger said. “A lot of our kids are so competitive. They have a lot of pride, and after seeing what last year’s seniors accomplished, they want to leave their own legacy.”
Friday’s game didn’t look like it would be close early. The Woodmen hit 7 of 13 field goals in the first quarter while holding the Hawks to 2-of-9 shooting to build a 19-7 lead. The margin swelled to 36-13 with 1:46 left in the first half and was 36-15 at halftime.
Evans scored 15 first-quarter points but left the game with a sprained ankle with two minutes remaining in the first half and didn’t return. Combine that with mounting foul trouble, which put Decatur Central in the bonus with two minutes to go in the third quarter, and the Hawks’ fullcourt press, and Greenwood’s lead diminished as the second half progressed.
“We were happy with how we played the second half, but we weren’t happy with how we played the first half,” Decatur Central coach Anthony Mann said. “If we can play like we did in the second half, we’ll win a lot of ballgames, but Greenwood’s a pretty good team.”
Evans led Greenwood with 17 points, while Jordan Unversaw added eight. Orrvar finished with seven off the bench despite recovering from strep throat, and Kelsie Ratliff scored six points and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds.Sarah McLeod added six points and seven boards off the bench.
Brittany Dailey led Decatur Central with 16 points, including 10 of 12 from the free-throw line, and 10 rebounds.
Greenwood will host county rival Center Grove on Tuesday.