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Shorthanded Irish overwhelm Center Grove

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Cathedral came to Center Grove Thursday without two of its regular starters, but the Class 4A No. 10 Irish proved they wouldn’t be needed.

They proved it early and often.

Cathedral, which played without suspended starters Justin Baker and Mo Evans, hit four of its first five 3-point attempts and used stifling man-to-man defense to build a 16-2 first-quarter lead and cruise to a 66-39 regular season-ending boys basketball victory.

The loss concluded the Trojans’ regular season at 8-12. Center Grove also played without one of its starters, as junior point guard Ryan Pendygraft sat out with a sprained ankle.

Pendygraft injured the ankle in the Trojans’ Feb. 15 loss at Class 4A No. 9 North Central.

Center Grove coach Cliff Hawkins said he anticipates Pendygraft will be available for the tournament-host Trojans’ first-round Feb. 28 sectional game against New Palestine.

But in the meantime, Hawkins credited Cathedral (19-5) with taking over Thursday’s game early.

“They hit a lot of shots at the start, and they really play outstanding defense,” Hawkins said. “I don’t think our team ever lost confidence. We’re always looking forward.”

Michael Benkert led Center Grove with 14 points, but no other Trojans player reached double figures.

Tyler Bryant added eight points off the bench, while Troy Vorhies added six points and tied Benkert for team-high honors with six rebounds.

James Wilson scored six points for Center Grove.

Cathedral’s Jalen Coleman matched Benkert’s 14 points, but the Irish had three other double-figure scorers. Josh Sullen had 13 points off the bench, and Collin Hartman and Garrett Hall each scored 10.

The Irish hit 11 of 20 from 3-point range (55 percent) and 8 of 13 from beyond the arc in the first half (61.5 percent). Their defense forced Center Grove into lots of contested shots, and the Trojans hit only 12 of 46 tries from the floor (26.1 percent).

“We’ve shot really well in several of our games the second half of the season,” Cathedral coach Andy Fagan said. “We’ve always been based on defense and rebounding, and our guys did a good job carrying that out.”

Center Grove will try to regroup in time to play New Palestine (14-5) in the second game of the Feb. 28 Class 4A Center Grove Sectional opener. Despite consecutive losses to top 10 Class 4A foes to close out the season, Hawkins is confident the Trojans will be ready.

“We went through a stretch like this earlier (a five-game losing streak) and came back with two wins,” Hawkins said, referring to back-to-back victories against Terre Haute North and Mooresville. “Our four seniors have continued to try to improve and kept the team together through some tough times.”

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