When a good free-throw shooting team is on display the way defending Class 4A state champion Carmel was Friday night, even the misfires look good.
And so was the case, 6-foot-6 junior forward Zach McRoberts’ second of two charity tosses midway through the second period that rattled around and kicked out.
As for the Greyhounds’ other 24 attempts, money.
Fifth-ranked Carmel needed nearly every one in its 58-53 victory at Center Grove, a game that dropped the Trojans to 5-5 overall and 0-2 in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference standings.
“Carmel is a great team. We won it from the field, but their free-throw shooting was the difference,” said Center Grove coach Cliff Hawkins. “I thought we got hung up on some screens on a couple of 3s, but overall I thought our kids played great tonight. They had a good focus all week.”
This was apparent at the outset. The Trojans led 19-10 after one quarter in what Hawkins thought was his squad’s best eight-minute stretch to date this season.
The Greyhounds eventually caught up, taking their first lead at 42-41 on — what else? — a pair of Crowley free throws with 41.5 seconds remaining in the third stanza. Carmel then proceeded to tack on eight straight as sophomore guard Ryan Cline buried consecutive triples to widen the gap to 50-41.
Center Grove countered with half-court trapping on defense that enabled it to score seven straight, two short left-handed bankers from junior point guard Ryan Pendygraft and center Troy Vorhies’ three free throws.
Carmel then spread the floor and forced the Trojans to foul. The strategy worked to perfection as the ‘Hounds calmly drained eight straight free throws inside the final 1:02 to put the game away.
Crowley led all scorers with 20 points, with senior guard Michael Volovic adding 12. McRoberts and Cline produced 11 each.
For the Trojans, junior swingman Tyler Bryant led the way with 15, while the 6-3 Vorhies scrapped his way to 14 and a team-high eight rebounds.
“The key for this group is to keep their heads high,” Hawkins said. “We’ve just got to get players six, seven and eight to come in and know their roles off the bench. If we get that figured out, this team might be hard to stop.”
Center Grove made good on six 3-pointers in the first half — four coming in the opening period — to hold a 28-27 lead at intermission.
The Trojans led by as many as 12 in the early going after Bryant’s 3-pointer 35 seconds into the second stanza made it a 22-10 ballgame. Carmel responded with a 13-1 scoring run, including a pair of triples from Crowley, to tie the score at 23-all with 2:35 on the clock.
Trojans’ sophomore Michael Benkert answered with his third trey of the half, but McRoberts countered by muscling in low for a bucket. Vorhies did likewise at the other end off a Pendygraft assist, and Volovic’s free throws with 2.9 seconds remaining in the second made it a one-point game.
The Greyhounds converted only 7 of 21 field-goal tries in the first half but knocked down 9 of 10 charities to keep it close. Center Grove, after hitting 6 of 10 field-goal tries, in the opening quarter was good on only 3 of 8 over the next eight minutes of play.
For the game, Carmel labored from the floor at 13 of 38 (.342). Center Grove proved slightly better in that department by converting 18 of 42 (.429).