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Trojans face Flashes in opening round — of course

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Life’s little list of certainties, the one that begins with death and taxes, seems to have a new addition.

No matter the won-loss records or venue, the Center Grove girls basketball team will inevitably find itself paired against Franklin Central on opening night of sectionals.

“I’ve been coach here for five years, and this is the fifth year in a row we’ve played them the first night. It’s karma,” said Trojans’ coach Shawn Sanders, whose seventh-ranked squad clashes with the Flashes tonight to open the Class 4A sectional at Whiteland.

“I’m a math teacher, and everyone asks me about the probability of that,” Sanders said. “But you know you’re going to have to beat the best teams if you’re going to win sectional, so what’s the difference if you have to play them Tuesday or some

other night?”

Since Sanders’ arrival in 2009-10, the Flashes hold a slim 5-4 series advantage after their 55-51 overtime victory at the Brownsburg Holiday Tournament on Dec. 27.

It was Franklin Central’s third consecutive triumph against Center Grove. However, Sanders’ program has produced a total of 442 points in the past nine meetings, compared with the Flashes’ 440.

Meanwhile, the recent postseason tally stands at 2-2.

Franklin Central eliminated Sanders’ first team in 2010, 52-48, in overtime, and again last season, 48-40. The Trojans prevailed in 2011 and 2012.

Neither team lacks momentum.

The Flashes take the court having won their final five regular-season games, while Center Grove won seven of eight following the December loss to Franklin Central.

Coming off Friday night’s 78-43 dismantling of Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference rival Carmel, the Trojans are led by senior guard Madi Kolthoff’s 11.4 points-per-game scoring average.

Close behind are 5-foot-10 forward Bri Gliesmann (9.0 ppg), 6-1 Regan Wentland (8.7 ppg), sophomore point guard Lauren Rau (7.9 ppg) and 6-2 junior frontliner Ali Line (5.9 ppg).

As a team, Center Grove allows opponents only 39.1 points a game on .342 shooting from the field. The Trojans also produce 11.2 steals a game and hold teams to .253 accuracy from behind the 3-point stripe.

“We’re really trying to make sure we’re making all the little plays right now,” Sanders said. “We’ve really minimized our mental errors, and the team chemistry keeps getting better.

“Our players know who has the hot hand and who can score in certain situations. It takes a group effort.”

Third-year Flashes coach Brian Hacker is 45-19 since assuming control of a program that was 16-47 in the three seasons prior to his arrival.

Hacker’s 2012-13 squad advanced to the regional championship game before losing 58-51 to eventual Class 4A state titlist Bedford North Lawrence.

“There’s not a program I respect more than Franklin Central when it comes to how prepared their teams are,” Sanders said. “Those kids are talented, they’re smart, and they’re well-prepared, and that makes for a very hard program to beat.

“Franklin Central is always very disciplined. If you want an extra possession you’re going to have to get it because they’re not going to beat themselves.”

Tonight’s second game at Whiteland features the host Warriors taking on Greenwood. The teams met in the same gym on Jan. 10, with the Woodmen producing a 55-37 victory.

Other action involving Johnson County programs will be at Morristown’s Class A sectional. Edinburgh plays Greenwood Christian Academy tonight in a first-round game. The Lancers controlled the regular-season matchup on Dec. 12 by a score of 79-36.

In Class 3A at Danville, Indian Creek (8-12) plays Friday against the winner of tonight’s first-round game between Greencastle (12-7) and Danville (12-9).

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