Center Grove boys basketball aims for repeat sectional championships


S. Findley

Junior Marcus Ankney drives the ball against a Pike defender in the Trojans’ Dec. 10 54-66 loss.

Sam Findley, Sports Editor

After a difficult 10-12 regular season the Center Grove boys basketball team will head to Greenwood tonight to face Franklin Central in the sectional semi-final. FC defeated CG near the beginning of the season 65-56 in overtime. That loss will be circling in senior Tyler Cerny’s mind during the Trojans rematch.

“We’ll definitely have the previous games result in the back of our minds the whole game,” Cerny said. “They got the best of us on our home court in our last match up so we’re going to go out there tomorrow night with the mentality that there’s no team in the state that can beat us.”

While their record 9-13 may seem lackluster, Franklin Central plays in a strong HCC conference and still has a plethora of offensive talent. At the top of Franklin Central’s offene is 6’1 senior Rynell Echols, averaging 14.7 points and 2.5 assists. Junior Ethan McComb says Echols’ ability to get to the rim will be a key in tonight’s matchup.

“Rynell is very quick and athletic, so stopping his drive will be key in the game,” McComb said. “I would say communication and awareness is going to be the most important part of stopping him and everyone else they have.”

Franklin Central’s defense is one that likes to speed the other team up into making mistakes and head coach Zach Hahn will try to keep his team playing at their pace, not the Flashes’.

“Maybe the biggest thing is we have to dictate tempo. We can’t allow their pressure to speed us up. You know, we have to play at the pace that we want to play at and we’ve been working on that all week, Hahn said. “We’ll work on it and put in a couple wrinkles here and there to take advantage of the way that they guard.”

Looking past the semifinal Franklin Central matchup, Whiteland and Franklin will face each other on the other side of the bracket and will face the winner of FC-CG. Based on Sagarin rankings, Whiteland should win.

The Warriors bested the Trojans in the county final and showed off that every player 1 through 6 score at a high rate for Whiteland. Wiatt McLaughlin showed the Warriors depth scoring 14 points off the bench for Whiteland in the county championship against CG.

Other than McLaughlin, Whiteland has senior big man Max Sullivan, who throws in 10.8 points and 5.1 rebounds, junior leading scorer Austin Willoughby with 11.6 points, and guard Drew Higdon who can fill the stat sheet avegering 10.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.6 steals.

Looking at the less likely championship matchup, Franklin has made their bread and butter at playing at a fast pace. At the center of that is Micah Davis who’s scoring at a 13.3 points per game clip.

Besides Davis, Franklin hosts junior forward Dylan Beverly who adds 8.7 points per game and athleticism to get to the rim at ease, sophomore sharpshooter guard Wyatt Nickleson.

Offensively for CG, junior combo guard Marcus Ankney will be the key to the Trojans success especially down the wire.

“He’s (Ankney) obviously averaging the most points per game. He’s a good free throw shooter. He’s great handling the ball. So there’s a lot of reasons you want to get him the ball in the clutch. We’d like him to get to the free throw line more. I think that’s a big part of it because he is like an 80% free throw shooter. So the more you can get the ball in a six three guy’s hands whether it’s posting up, driving and making a play,” Hahn said. “I’ve been pretty impressed lately though; he’s been the guy that has made all the big shots for us. He’s made a couple big threes against Warren, a big three against North Central, against Mooresville, the week before we’re down one he goes drives gets the lay up. And so those are things that we hope carry over and give him confidence and give his teammates confidence in giving him the ball in those situations. But I mean, he’s got to be the guy and everybody knows that the other team knows that. Kids on our team know it and, and he knows it and I think he’s really embraced that role the last four or five games of late in the game.”

No matter who the Trojans play Hahn will look at his defense to lead the path to a repeat sectional championship.

“That’s why we’ve been able to play in close games even when we can’t score: we’re not making threes, we guard and we rebound pretty well. And so those are two areas that you can’t control other shots going. You can’t really control turnovers and things like that, but you can control whether you have great effort on the defensive end and win 50-50 balls,” Hahn said. “And that’s probably what I’m most pleased with this year about our team. We have the lowest defensive average, I think in school history. I know it since John Harrell started his website 25 years ago. No, CG team has ever averaged less than really 50 and now we’ve had back to back years. Last year we gave up 49. This year we’re at like 48.1 points per game.”

Senior Tyler Cerny knows bringing home a sectional trophy and advancing to the regional would be the perfect bow on the four seniors high school basketball career.

“It would mean a lot to me and this program. It’ll be a testament to all the hard work and dedication this entire team and I have put into this year,” Cerny said. “Us four seniors and everyone in this program have continued to work our tails off toward the end goal of winning championships and winning this one will be a huge accomplishment.”