Nine-game win streaks during the course of a boys basketball season aren’t particularly common.
Center Grove nearly had its second.
Ranked third in Class 4A, the Trojans came up short against visiting Zionsville on Tuesday, losing a 54-44 decision to drop to 17-2 on the season.
Leading from the 4:27 mark of the second quarter, the Eagles (12-6) led by as many as 10 points on three different occasions, including a 45-35 cushion early in the fourth before Center Grove charged back to get within a point on a Will Spellman bucket with 2:52 showing.
The Trojans couldn’t get over the top, and Zionsville hushed the home crowd with a 9-0 scoring run.
“They’re a good team. Their record doesn’t indicate who they are because every team they’ve lost to is rated in the top five or six,” CG coach Zach Hahn said. “And at the end of the day, we were right there.
“I thought (Zionsville) dictated the entire first half. They were the more physical team. In the second half, I thought we were the aggressive team in the third and most of the fourth quarter.”
Penn State commit Logan Imes, a 6-foot-4 guard, led Zionsville’s balanced attack with a game-high 17 points. Sophomore guard Drew Snively added 13, followed by 6-9 senior Nick Richart with 12 and soph Maguire Mitchell with 10.
The Trojans placed three in double figures, led by junior guard Joey Schmitz with 14 points off the bench. Senior guard Marcus Ankney and Spellman, a 6-5 post, chipped in 13 and 11, respectively. Imes and Richart each had nine rebounds; junior point guard Jalen Bundy led the Trojans with six boards, with Ankney and Spellman at five apiece.
“I told our guys, we’ve dug ourselves holes five or six times this year, and you’ve been able to climb out,” Hahn said. “But against good teams, you’re not going to close out on those, and that’s exactly what we experienced tonight.
“We got all the way close. Got it to one and miss a free throw to tie it. I was proud of our fight because it could have gotten ugly. We can’t get off to slow starts, and it’s hurt us a bunch this year.”
In a game of scoring runs, the 14-4 one Zionsville went on the last half of the second quarter might have been the most crucial.
The Eagles buried four 3-pointers over the final 4:27 to take a 26-18 lead at halftime.
A triple from Schmitz from the left wing at 4:47 lifted the Trojans to a 14-12 advantage, but Mitchell answered 20 seconds later. Mitchell knocked down another trey from the right wing, and Snively twice made good from distance to provide the visitors some breathing room.
Third-year Eagles coach J.R. Howell was pleased with how his young players stepped up against a good opponent on the road.
“I told them before the game and at halftime too, there aren’t many situations we haven’t seen at this point of the year,” Howell said. “Those guys have gotten a lot of minutes throughout the year. Kudos to those sophomores. They’ve been playing really solid for us this year.
“The way our schedule is built, we don’t play many easy games. It’s nice to grit one of these out because our last four losses have been really close against good teams.”
Center Grove, which shot 20 of 49 from the floor (40.8%) compared to Zionsville’s 19 of 40 (47.5%), is now off until Feb. 14, when it hosts Mooresville.