Defending champion Center Grove entered this year’s Johnson County girls basketball tournament as the heavy favorite.
The Trojans lived up expectations.
Ranked No. 6 in Class 4A, the Trojans were dominant in a 76-35 win against Franklin on Saturday at Whiteland’s Glenn Ray Gymnasium, securing their second straight county tournament title and third in four years.
Although it took nearly a minute for Center Grove (4-0) to get on the board, the Trojans never slowed down from that point.
Bri Gliesmann knocked down a 3-pointer 52 seconds into the game to begin a 16-0 opening run by the Trojans. The lead was 22-2 at the end of the quarter, and 39-11 by halftime.
Gliesmann was one of four Trojans, all seniors, to score in double figures. She led the way with 16 points on perfect 5 of 5 shooting from the field, including four 3-pointers.
Ali Line scored 13 for Center Grove, and Jessica Norris had and Regan Wentland had 11 and 10, respectively.
Gliesmann said that balance frees teammates to play without worrying about putting up big numbers every night.
“We just play so unselfishly that it helps us to know that if we have an off game, someone else is there to pick us up,” Gliesmann said.
Center Grove shot 44.8 percent from the field (26 of 58), knocking down 13 of 30 3-pointers (43.3 percent) along the way.
Trojans’ coach Shawn Sanders applauded the shared scoring effort.
“Four seniors led us, which is very fitting,” Sanders said. “Those guys have been our core for three years. I’m sure opposing coaches are tired of seeing Bri, Regan, Jessica and Ali.
“It’s nice to be able to score in multiple ways. It’s hard for defenses to figure out which person to focus on.”
As good as they were on offense, the Trojans was even better on defense.
Center Grove limited Franklin (3-2) to just two made free throws in the first quarter and did not allow a made field goal until 6:31 remained in the opening half. The Trojans’ constant pressure forced 30 turnovers on the evening and held Franklin to just 11 made shots from the field in total.
Sanders said the defensive pressure was the key to their fast start.
“Defensively, my goodness. Four games now we’ve had 30-plus turnovers,” he said. “That’s what we have to hang our hat on all year, defending people and making it hard for people to score.”
Julia Smith led the Grizzly Cubs with 12 points. It was a rough shooting night all around for Franklin. The Grizzly Cubs hit just 11 of 35 field goals (31.4 percent), 4 of 11 3-pointers (36.4 percent) and 9 of 24 free throws (37.5 percent).
Franklin did out-rebound Center Grove 33-32, led by Allison Barnard’s game-high eight boards.
Franklin played the entire second half without starting guard Maci Eads, who was held out after hitting her head on the floor while being fouled just before halftime.
Cubs’ coach Walt Raines said playing a team the caliber of Center Grove would be a valuable experience for his young team, which as only two seniors.
“They’re a very good team, obviously,” Raines said. “It kind of snowballed on us from the start. We’re still going to be good. We just have to learn from this and we’ll get better.”
While the Trojans aspire for a deep state tournament run at the end of the season, Gliesmann said it was still exciting to defend their Johnson County title.
“It’s always good to get hardware,” she said.
In earlier action on Saturday, Indian Creek beat Edinburgh 64-23 in the fifth-place game, and Whiteland knocked off Greenwood 42-36 in the consolation game.
The Trojans and Cubs both return to action at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Center Grove will host Decatur Central, while Franklin opens Mid-State conference play at Plainfield.