Center Grove has made a habit this season of building second-half leads and not being able to hold them.
Thursday night, history repeated itself for the Trojans. They led by eight points with six minutes remaining before Columbus North closed the game on a 13-2 run to rally for a 40-37 victory.
“I think the other team had five fouls on them the entire game,” Center Grove coach Zach Hahn said. “It’s hard to be aggressive and stay aggressive at the rim when they only call five fouls on the other team the entire game. But all things aside, that’s been a story that we’ve had all year where we go through a three- to four-minute scoring drought. We’ve been up eight nine times in games and lost. Unfortunately, it’s a habit now. Unfortunately, it’s a habit that we’ve built, and we have to find a way to overcome it next week.”
The Trojans (10-12) led 30-27 before North’s Rhett Harmon hit a 3-pointer with 5 1/2 minutes remaining to spark an 11-0 run. A three-point play by Cooper Horn trimmed the margin to two, and Sam King tied it with a basket at the 4:22 mark.
King added a free throw, then two more free throws to give the Bull Dogs (16-7) a 38-35 lead with 2:26 left. Center Grove got a basket from Marcus Ankney with 1:58 remaining to cut the lead to one. Then, with North in a delay offense, the Trojans got a steal but turned it over.
Luke Harmon converted a one-and-one for the Bull Dogs with 33 seconds left to push the lead to three. Center Grove turned it over with 7 seconds left, but still had a chance after Luke Harmon missed the front end of a one-and-one with 6.2 seconds remaining. But Ankney’s 3-pointer from the top of the key was off the mark, and King grabbed the rebound as the buzzer sounded.
“We just showed incredible mental toughness,” North coach Paul Ferguson said. “We stuck with our game plan, and I thought down the stretch there, we just executed really well against a very good defensive team.”
The finish capped a defensive battle in which neither team led by more than six points through the first three quarters. The Bull Dogs led 21-19 at halftime, but the Trojans opened the second half on a 10-2 run to take a 29-23 lead.
Ankney and Tyler Cerny each scored 10 points to lead Center Grove. Horn finished with nine points for the Bull Dogs, who snapped a two-game losing streak heading into next week’s Martinsville Sectional.
“It’s big for our confidence,” Ferguson said. “I think we showed that we can come out and compete with an excellent team, and when we face some adversity, we can bounce back. Just a credit to our guys. They showed a lot of mental toughness in a very physical basketball game, and we found a way to get it done.”