A week after storming back from a 19-point deficit to grab a win at North Central, the Center Grove girls basketball team flirted with giving up an 18-point lead Thursday night at Perry Meridian.
The Class 4A No. 9 Trojans bent, but never broke, and held off the Falcons 46-36 in a game postponed from Tuesday night.
Winner of four straight games, Center Grove (13-2) was terrific for the first three quarters of the game.
The Trojans hit 11 of 22 shots in the first half to take a 28-15 halftime lead.
They extended the margin to as many as 18, leading 40-22 after a Jessica Norris 3-pointer with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Falcons began cutting into the lead almost immediately.
Senior Cassie Baird scored and was fouled with two seconds remaining in the period. Her free throw trimmed the lead to 40-25.
The teams traded buckets to open the final quarter before Perry Meridian went on a 9-0 burst to close the margin to 43-36. The final points of that stretch came on a steal and layup by Jenny Sims with 2:42 to play.
The Falcons would not score again, though, and Center Grove knocked down three of four free throws while running out the clock to clinch the win.
Center Grove forward Ali Line said the Trojans never panicked despite losing over half their lead.
“I don’t think we got nervous,” Line said. “We just needed to calm ourselves and start playing our game again.”
Coach Shawn Sanders said the Trojans lacked fire in the second half.
“I thought we played disinterested at times,” he said. “I thought there were moments where we played hard. But as far as the flow of the entire game, I just didn’t feel like we had the energy we need to have to be consistent.
“We got a win, and I’m really excited about that because this is a tough place to play. For where we want to go, though, we can’t have games like this.”
Line led a fine Center Grove effort on the boards. She grabbed 11 of the Trojans’ 27 rebounds. Perry Meridian had just 19 rebounds for the night.
Line said she wanted to help fill the void left by senior Bri Gliesmann, who missed the game due to illness.
“With Bri not being here, I knew I needed to step up a little more and get a few more boards than usual,” Line said. “But I was just trying to play hard.”
Lauren Rau and Regan Wentland both scored nine points for Center Grove. Line and Madi Kolthoff each added eight points. The Trojans cooled off from their hot start to shoot 42.1 percent from the field (16 of 38), including 4 of 13 3-pointers.
Baird scored 10 points for the Falcons (9-8), who hit 13 of 33 shots from the field (39.4 percent).
Next comes perhaps the toughest week of the season for Center Grove. Saturday they play at Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference rival Ben Davis. On Jan. 28, the Trojans host county rival Greenwood. Four nights later, they host Class 4A No. 1 Lawrence North.
Line said she and her teammates were ready for the challenge.
“We’re just going to come out and play our game,” Line said. “We know we can beat anybody, but we can’t underestimate anybody, either.”