A one-game winning streak might not sound like much, but Center Grove boys basketball coach Cliff Hawkins will take it.
The goal now is to double it.
Center Grove’s eight-game losing skid is a thing of the past after Friday night’s 53-50 overtime victory at Terre Haute North.
Now 8-12, the Trojans prepare for Tuesday’s 6 p.m. first game against county rival Whiteland at the Class 4A sectional at Center Grove.
Senior Tyler Bryant supplied the heroics for Center Grove with a game-best 25 points and the deciding basket with a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:01 remaining in OT.
“Tyler played a tremendous game tonight. He got his feet set on that last shot and we ran what we wanted to run,” said Hawkins, whose squad avoided finishing winless in Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference for the first time since the league formed prior to the
“And what about Bryce Brown hitting that first shot in overtime. First of all it gave us the lead and secondly our energy really picked up.”
A 6-foot-4 sophomore, Brown nailed a 15-footer along the right baseline that separated Center Grove from the 48-all tie at the end of regulation.
Sophomore post Kobi Riley slipped inside for two at 2:32 of OT to tie the game for the fifth and final time.
Bryant’s game-winner allowed the 6-2 guard to finish Friday’s road test in a manner similar to the way he started it — scoring 14 of the Trojans’ first 18 points and nine their final 14.
No other Center Grove player reached double-figures, though 6-4 swingman Michael Benkert was close with nine. The junior also led the Trojans with six rebounds.
Held well below his 18-point scoring average, Benkert nevertheless produced the five points responsible for switching momentum back in his team’s direction.
Terre Haute North held a 42-32 advantage midway through the third quarter when Benkert went to work with two buckets down low and a free throw.
The Patriots led 44-37 lead through three, but Center Grove opened the final stanza with an 8-0 scoring run thanks to Titus McCoy’s putback, a Bryant triple, a 15-foot pull-up by sophomore guard Trevor Harrell and a McCoy free throw.
Terre Haute North scored four straight for a 48-45 lead until Bryant forced overtime with his fifth of six treys with 38.2 left in the fourth period.
Late in OT the Patriots launched a total of four potential game-tying 3’s, but to no avail.
Riley’s 16 points were best for the Patriots (7-14), while junior swingman Charlie Aimone added 14 points and a game-high eight boards. Overall, the Patriots dominated the glass, 29-18.
“That’s a huge concern for us and we can’t seem to fix it,” Hawkins said. “Rebounding is always a concern, but doggone it you can’t take away our fight and competitiveness.”
Both teams shot poorly from the floor, with Center Grove’s icy 20 of 49 (.408) only slightly better than the Patriots’ 20 of 51 (.392).
Bryant’s 16 first-half points weren’t enough to keep Center Grove from trailing by a point at the half, 30-29.
The Trojans were the aggressor at the outset, jumping to an 11-4 advantage with Bryant contributing nine of the points on two triples, a pull-up jumper and a free throw.
Terre Haute North behind Riley and Aimone clawed back to make a game of it, a pattern that continued the rest of the game.