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Perry stays unbeaten by knocking off Center Grove

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Eight victories without a loss still wasn’t enough to garner Perry Meridian’s boys basketball team a top 10 ranking in Class 4A.

Consecutive win No. 9 should do the trick.

At least that’s the hope of fourth-year Falcons coach Brent Keck, whose team blended precise ball movement and good perimeter shooting with a sticky 1-2-2 zone defense to score a 62-51 triumph at Center Grove on Friday night.

The victory was the program’s first regular-season win on the Trojans’ hardwood since a 63-61 decision in December 1998. That same season represents another impressive start as that Perry Meridian squad got out of the gate in a hurry by winning 10 of its first 11.

Senior guards Curtis Green and Anthony Hardy produced 20 and 18 points, respectively, and buried seven 3-pointers between them for the Falcons. Two of Hardy’s treys came during a third quarter in which Perry separated itself from the Trojans after leading by only two at half.

“They’re a real hard-working group, and I don’t think people give us enough credit as far as being athletic. We’re gritty, and I think we’re skilled,” said Keck, who also received 15 points and 10 rebounds from 6-foot-6 junior Dylan Windler and another 10 boards from forward Devin Parrish.

“I’m really happy for our kids. They’ve worked their butts off to be special.”

No need trying to convince Center Grove coach Cliff Hawkins. To say he was impressed with the Falcons at both ends of the floor would be a massive understatement.

“Part of their issue on defense is they have a 6-6 guy (Windler) in front of their zone,” Hawkins said. “There’s a reason why they’re 9-0. They move the ball around and they can hit shots.”

Six-four junior swingman Michael Benkert led the Trojans (6-3) with a career-high 27 points while also leading his squad in rebounds with seven.

Senior Tyler Bryant added 13 points and junior post Sam Hendershott eight. After that, the other six Center Grove players seeing action combined to make only 1 of 18 field-goal attempts for three points.

Benkert scored 16 of his points in the first half, yet the Falcons still managed a 25-23 halftime lead on the strength of five 3-point baskets.

Center Grove led only twice over the first two periods — 8-5 at 3:47 of the first and 23-22 at the 3:01 mark of the second stanza. The Trojans managed only 9-of-24 shooting (.375) from the floor early on, but only turned the ball over three times prior to intermission.

The Trojans’ lone advantage in the second half occurred when Bryant’s two free throws put the host team ahead 27-26 at 5:42 of the third.

After that it was all Perry Meridian, which closed the third quarter with a 15-5 scoring run and opened the final eight minutes with an 11-3 flurry.

Hardy played a starring role in the game-changing burst with three 3-pointers, while the 6-foot Green dropped in a pair of triples.

Center Grove produced a late flurry when consecutive treys from junior guard Anderson McCoy and Bryant cut the lead to 11 (54-43) with 3:01 remaining. The Trojans eventually closed to within nine, but no closer as the Falcons added insurance points at the foul stripe.

The Trojans travel to Cathedral tonight with hopes of snapping a two-game losing streak to the Irish. Perry Meridian enjoys a week off before playing at Shelbyville on Jan. 11.

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