Buzzer-beater stuns Center Grove boys basketball

One ice-in-the-veins moment wound up getting upstaged by another.

In a classic Hoosier Hysteria battle that featured nine lead changes in the last 10:35 of play, it appeared that Center Grove was going to escape with a Class 4A sectional championship on its home after Marcus Ankney’s clutch 3-pointer with 1:52 remaining. But Gavin Reed did him one better, swishing a rainbow trey from the northwest corner of the gym in the game’s final second to lift Bloomington North to a stunning 43-41 victory over the fourth-ranked Trojans on Saturday night.

A Luke Lindeman layup broke the game’s final deadlock and gave Bloomington North a 40-38 edge with 2:38 left. Ankney, playing with four fouls, got just open enough in the corner to get off the go-ahead shot. When Center Grove (22-3) forced the Cougars to work nearly all of the remaining clock and call a pair of timeouts — the latter with just 12.8 seconds to go — Ankney’s bucket was looking very much like the game-winner. Then, with time running out, North’s Dawan Daniels chucked a perfect corner-to-corner pass for Reed, who seized the moment and lived out every young boy’s driveway dream.

“They had a kid step up and make a big shot,” Trojans coach Zach Hahn said. “That was the one guy we didn’t want to let them get it off, and he got it off on a crazy pass as time expired.”

Four tenths of a second were put back on the clock for Center Grove to work a miracle with, but Joey Schmitz was called for an offensive foul when he collided with Bloomington North star and Vanderbilt signee JaQualon Roberts before the inbounds pass.

Center Grove got the upper hand early in the night by playing airtight defense, holding the Cougars to just one basket over the first six and a half minutes. Ankney scored on a give-and-go with Will Spellman and then found Schmitz for an open 3-pointer that put the Trojans up 11-2 with 1:24 left in the opening quarter.

Bloomington North (18-5) got untracked with five straight points late in the period, but Ankney scored again just before the buzzer and Schmitz opened the second with another 3 from the corner to push the lead back to nine. The Cougars briefly trimmed that deficit to 20-15, but Ethan McComb knocked down a 3-pointer with 54 seconds remaining to close the first-half scoring.

A Gavin Reed layup and a 3 from Dawan Daniels at the start of the third quarter brought Bloomington North within a single possession at 23-20, and Reed hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key at the 5:41 mark to tie things up for the first time. After Spellman and Schmitz baskets put Center Grove back in front by four, Lindeman answered with a personal 7-2 spurt, capped by a 3 that gave his Cougars a 30-29 edge.

“Our intensity was really good in the first half,” Hahn said. “In the second half I thought we came out flat and they came out with the intensity, and they got back in it within three minutes. … That momentum flipped right at the start of the third quarter.”

Following that initial lead change, the two sides started taking turns pulling ahead. A Schmitz 3-pointer that gave the Trojans a 32-30 lead going into the fourth was answered by a Roberts trey to start the final quarter. Ankney put Center Grove up one with a short jumper in the paint, but Bloomington North scored twice in a row to regain control at 37-34.

Ankney picked up his fourth foul with 4:27 left and the Trojans still down by one, but his teammates came up with a defensive stop and Schmitz drove the lane for a go-ahead layup at the other end, giving Center Grove a 38-37 advantage with 3:45 to go. A Roberts free throw with 3:12 on the clock tied it back up.

Though Reed’s shot eventually sealed the Trojans’ fate, Hahn was more focused on some of the forgotten moments earlier in the second half that allowed the Cougars to hang close enough to have a chance at the end.

“Everybody in this gym’s going to talk about the last possession,” he said, “but … there were two or three 50/50 balls where they’re diving on the floor and getting timeouts, and there were two or three offensive rebounds that they got in the fourth quarter that I thought were the difference-makers. They missed their first one, or there was a bobbled ball, and it seemed like they ended up with every single one of those.”

Schmitz led Center Grove with 16 points, while Ankney added 14 in his final high school game. Lindeman had 13 points for the Cougars; Reed and Roberts finished with 10 apiece.

It took much longer than usual for the Center Grove players to emerge from the locker room after the stunning defeat. Hahn believes the pain felt was a bittersweet by-product of the heart and soul that the players put into the collective effort over the last 12 months.

He credits his senior class with setting the right tone for the rest of the Trojans.

“They really laid a foundation back in March,” Hahn said. “They were all in — and only two of them really played significant minutes (last season). The other five that we kept, we kept for a reason, and they fulfilled every part of what we wanted them to do. The best compliment I can give them is, their buy-in, their care for each other, is what makes this that much harder.”