Center Grove assistant girls basketball coach Brandon Painter recently showed his players a revealing statistic.
Entering Tuesday’s home game against Perry Meridian, Center Grove was 7-0 when allowing 51 points or less and 0-4 when allowing 55 or more.
The Trojans kept the visiting Falcons well under the 51-point barrier Tuesday, holding them without a field goal in the second quarter and forcing 11 first-quarter turnovers. That helped the Trojans build a 34-10 halftime lead and cruise to a 71-36 victory, their third-straight win and eighth in the last 10 games.
“Our practice the day before the game was dedicated to defense,” said Center Grove sophomore Bri Gliesmann, who led the Trojans with 15 points off the bench. “We want to force as many turnovers as possible and make sure we know where the shooters are.”
Center Grove (12-4) held Perry Meridian (6-9) to 3 of 24 field-goal shooting in the first half (12.5 percent) and 13 of 52 for the game (25 percent). The Trojans, meanwhile, connected on 52 percent of their field-goal tries (52.8 percent), including 6 of 7 from 3-point range.
“Our shadow press was the key,” Center Grove senior point guard Shelby Shaffer said. “Regan (Wentland) and Lauren (Weidman) on top force a lot of turnovers, and that pressure is key. Perry Meridian beat us last year (61-58 on Jan. 17, 2012), and we talked about that, as well.”
The Trojans placed four players in the double-figure scoring column. In addition to Gliesmann’s 15, Shaffer added 12, while Wentland and Ali Line scored 11 points each. Line scored eight of her points in the first quarter to help Center Grove build its early lead.
“No one player feels like they have to carry the load,” Center Grove coach Shawn Sanders said. “That makes us hard to prepare for. I’m most proud of our balance right now.”
Despite the big lead, Sanders and his players didn’t want to lapse in the second half. They built an 18-point lead Thursday against Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference rival and defending Class 4A state champ North Central, only to watch as the Panthers nearly came all the way back.
This time, the Falcons never came closer than 39-21 after the Trojans built their halftime advantage.
“We’re trying to fix our little mistakes,” Shaffer said. “North Central came back on us, and we weren’t going to let up this time.”
In addition to Shaffer’s 12 points, she dished out five assists. Center Grove had assists on 19 of its 28 field goals.
“We’re getting the ball to scorers in a position to score,” Sanders said. “Shelby had a lot to do with that. I’m not sure I’ve seen her play a better game. She’s got to be a coach on the floor, and she did that.”
The Trojans return to conference action Saturday when they host Ben Davis. Center Grove is 4-0 in league play, a half-game behind Lawrence North (5-0).