With 6:18 left in the third quarter of the Johnson County tournament championship game, Savanna Bischoff knocked down a 3-pointer to help Center Grove draw even with Indian Creek. It was the Trojans’ fourth triple of the game.
Braves coach Brian Ferris decided it was time to throw a different look out there, and he started mixing in some zone defenses in hopes that it would prevent Center Grove from settling into a rhythm.
Indian Creek held the Trojans scoreless for the next eight minutes of play, going on an 11-0 run over that span and getting the separation it needed to come away with a 48-38 triumph and cut down the nets in Edinburgh’s gym on Saturday morning.
It’s the first time that the Class 3A No. 6 Braves (5-0) won a county tournament since the fall of 2002.
“We threw that zone out there a little bit,” Ferris said. “Being able to switch in and out (of zone) has helped the kids. They’re really getting that ball IQ going where we can, on multiple possessions, switch from a 13 to a 32 to a man to a full-court, and I think that helps, because when a team comes down and they see something different, then hopefully it disrupts them.”
The Trojans (3-3) were definitely disrupted. On what was already a cold shooting day overall anyway (15 of 50), the second-half drought essentially froze them to death.
“You’re not going to win a lot of games that way,” Center Grove coach Kevin Stuckmeyer said.
Indian Creek established 6-foot-4 Indiana University recruit Faith Wiseman down low early, generating mismatches in the paint that led to a couple of easy buckets and an 8-2 lead. Turnovers (10 in the first half, 18 overall) and fouls slowed the Braves’ momentum, however, and the Trojans crept back. A corner 3-pointer by Ella Hobson late in the first quarter cut it to 10-8, and a Lilly Bischoff layup to open the second tied it up.
The last three-plus minutes of the half saw the two sides jockeying for the upper hand, with the lead repeatedly changing hands. Olivia Pendleton treys put the Braves on top on two different occasions, only for Center Grove to answer back in both cases. An Audrey Annee 3 with a minute to go gave the Trojans a 20-19 edge, but Indian Creek went into the break on top after Abby Fleetwood grabbed an offensive rebound and alertly fed Lauren Foster for a jumper with five seconds left.
After Savanna Bischoff’s third-quarter 3 evened the score for the fourth time, the Braves took over. Wiseman hit a fadeaway jumper to give Indian Creek the lead for good at the 4:47 mark, and she blocked a shot at the other end to help set up the second of consecutive Foster layups.
Ayla Lollar knocked down a deep ball just seconds into the fourth period to put the Braves up 34-23, one of several key buckets by the Braves’ role players. Foster (20 points) and Wiseman (15) still did most of the heavy lifting offensively, but their teammates have been doing enough to keep opponents honest.
“Everybody else has got more confidence that they can knock down shots,” Ferris said. “Teams have been really focusing on (Foster and Wiseman), and it’s allowed some of the other kids to be ready.”
Hobson found Annee on a nice back-door play to end the Trojans’ long dry spell, but Wiseman calmly delivered another dagger with a 3 from the left wing to make it 37-25 with 5:40 to go.
Baskets from Foster and Wiseman stretched the Creek lead to 16 points with 3:10 left, and while Center Grove did chip away a little bit on 3-pointers by Annee, Hobson and Lilly Bischoff, the Braves were able to knock down free throws — Foster went six for six over the final 1:07 — and salt away the remaining clock with little difficulty.
The inability to get untracked on the offensive end left Stuckmeyer and the Trojans frustrated.
“We left a lot of points out there,” the coach said. “Situationally, we’ve got to get stronger.”
The Braves, meanwhile, are anything but frustrated after running a weeklong gauntlet against three Class 4A schools, including Franklin and Center Grove — who had rudely ushered them out of the last two county tournaments by 48 and 22 points, respectively.
“We’ve always lost to Franklin our whole growing up, so it was a really big deal to beat them,” Wiseman said. “Then we came in here and we were just thinking play our game, play smart; our defense is our strong suit, and we were able to lock down their shooters and just play our game. It was fun to get a win.”
A win that further solidified the Braves’ belief that this was the first of several championship celebrations this winter.
“We already had confidence,” Foster said. “We already knew that we were really good, but this is just — it proves that we’re number one.”
“We’ve proven to ourselves that we can play with anybody,” Ferris added, “and we’ve just got to take that mentality forward.”