Center Grove, Franklin girls basketball reach county final

If the old adage about defense winning championships holds true, both Center Grove and Franklin appear well positioned to win a Johnson County girls basketball tournament title this weekend.

The host Trojans stifled Greenwood through the final three quarters of a comfortable 43-17 victory in Thursday’s first semifinal, while Class 4A No. 5 Franklin forced 32 Indian Creek turnovers in pulling away for a 80-32 win in the nightcap.

The Grizzly Cubs return to Center Grove’s home floor for the final on Saturday morning.

After coming out of the first quarter with a slim 8-7 edge, the Trojans (3-3) turned up the defensive heat, limiting the Woodmen to single field goals in both the second and third quarter and holding the visitors scoreless for an 8:19 span at one point.

In the meanwhile, the Center Grove offense gathered enough momentum to put the game away, scoring 13 consecutive points in the late second and early third to stretch the lead to 27-9. Savanna Bischoff and Aubrie Booker hit 3-pointers during that run, which was capped by a steal and layup from Audrey Annee.

The Trojans led 33-11 after three periods and squeezed a 10-0 run between four Woodmen free throws in the fourth.

Greenwood went 11:55 without a field goal in the second half.

“I think we lacked that intensity that we had the other night,” Woodmen coach Justin Bennett said. “Center Grove did a good job of adjusting to us, and once we got into the second quarter, from there, we did not look to get downhill. … The hustle plays, the second-chance points hurt us pretty good, so that’s something that we’ve got to shore up for next time.

“But hats off to Center Grove; they played a really good game.”

Rachel Wirts scored 13 points to lead the Trojans, including the team’s first 11 points of the evening. Booker and Ella Hobson each added nine. Brooklyn Bell paced the Woodmen (2-4) with five points.

In the nightcap, the Grizzly Cubs (6-0) managed to advance comfortably despite a shaky first half that saw them miss several open looks. Franklin’s aggressive defense racked up 13 fouls in the first half, giving the Braves some easy opportunities to collect points, but it also forced 19 turnovers in that span to paper over many of the team’s other shortcomings.

“We foul too much,” Sabol said. “Just silly fouls that are 84 feet from the hoop; we don’t need to do that. We have to adjust to the way that the officials are calling the game. The officials were calling the game really tight, they were calling hand checks all night, and we have to adjust.”

Down 22-4 midway through the second quarter, the Braves (2-2) closed the half with a bit of a surge, getting 3-pointers from Savannah Hall and Lauren Foster and then another at the buzzer from Emily Todor to cut the deficit to 30-17 at the break.

But that was as close as it got. The Grizzly Cubs opened the third quarter with seven points in 49 seconds, with two Erica Buening buckets sandwiching a Kuryn Brunson 3, en route to a 36-point period that stretched the lead to 40.

Brunson had 16 points and Buening 15 for Franklin, who also got 11 points from Adelyn Walker, 10 from Brooklyn York and seven apiece from Scarlett Kimbrell and Kyndell Jochim. Indian Creek was led by Foster (10 points) and Todor (eight).

Now, the two winners turn their attention to Saturday morning, which offers a style clash between two familiar opponents.

The Trojans kept scoring to a minimum in both of last year’s meetings with Franklin, which the Grizzly Cubs won 30-29 and 45-36. Sabol and his team would prefer a faster pace this time.

“We don’t slow it down,” Sabol said. “That’s just not who we are. So we’re going to do what we do best, and we’ll be ready for Saturday.”