Twice this season the Center Grove girls basketball team has needed big plays in clutch moments to avoid a loss. Each time the Trojans came up short and dropped games to Bloomington South and Franklin Central.
Thursday, though, the Trojans came up with huge plays late to remain perfect in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference.
Center Grove stormed back from a 19-point first-half deficit to shock host North Central 58-53. The win pushed the Trojans to 12-2 overall and 4-0 in the MIC.
Center Grove trailed 49-42 with 5:35 to play in the game when Regan Wentland drilled a 3-pointer to cut the lead to four. Ninety seconds later Madi Kolthoff buried a 3-pointer from the right corner to slice the lead to one point.
After two North Central free throws, Bri Gliesmann hit from deep to tie the game at 51-all with 2:32 to play.
Two more Panthers free throws followed before Kolthoff closed the game out with a 7-0 run of her own.
First, she hit her fifth 3-pointer of the night to give the Trojans their first lead at 54-53 with 1:30 to play. The senior then hit four free throws in the final 15 seconds to clinch the win.
Kolthoff said the experience of the Trojans’ two losses this year helped them fight back Thursday.
“We went through the same thing against Bloomington South, and then in the holiday tournament it happened again against Franklin Central,” she said. “We knew what we were in, and the third time was the charm, I guess.”
Kolthoff, who had a game-high 25 points, said the Trojans picked each other up after their sluggish start.
“(In the first half) when someone hit a shot, we weren’t cheering for them,” Kolthoff said. “We realized that was a problem and came out with more energy and enthusiasm in the second half.”
Center Grove coach Shawn Sanders applauded Kolthoff’s performance.
“Madi was just in a zone,” he said. “There were a couple shots where I don’t know how they went in. She’s just a special senior.”
He added that North Central’s early lead came primarily because of Center Grove miscues.
“I thought the biggest thing in the first half was we were turning the ball over and (North Central) was getting easy baskets,” Sanders said. “Then they got in a flow, started playing loose and confident.
“Once we started taking care of the ball, they started playing tighter.”
North Central (7-6, 2-2 MIC) led from the opening minutes and gave Center Grove fits with their pressure defense. The Panthers forced nine first-quarter turnovers and held the Trojans to just one made shot in the period.
By the time the Trojans hit their second shot of the half, with 6:00 remaining in the second quarter, they trailed 26-10.
But Center Grove closed the first half strong. The Trojans scored the last nine points of the half to cut North Central’s lead to 31-23 at the break.
Sander said that run set the Trojans up for their second half surge.
“Going into halftime, I thought our confidence was a lot better,” he said. “We were down eight, but we were playing better and we knew we were in the game at that point.”
Gliesmann added 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds. The Trojans shot 42.9 percent from the field, but hit 14 of 16 free throws. They also outrebounded North Central 27-21.
De’Shawna Harper led the Panthers with 19 points.
The Trojans are off until Jan. 21, when they travel to Perry Meridian.