Boys basketball team faces Carmel tonight in battle of Top 10 teams


Sam Findley

Joey Schmitz pulls up for a mid-range jumper in the Trojans’ 51-49 setback to Kokomo in the Phil Cox Holiday Tournament.

Micah Robertson, Sports Editor

The No. 7 ranked Trojans will kick off the new year at home Friday in a battle of Top 10 teams when they face off against No. 8 Carmel. Center Grove (10-1) saw the best start to a season in program history, going undefeated through their first nine games. 

Despite a strong start to their season, the Trojans should expect to have their hands full when they take on the Greyhounds; in the schools’ last 25 meetings, Carmel has a 16-9 advantage. Trojans head coach Zach Hahn is 0-8 in the series and is looking to lead his team to their first victory over Carmel since the 2010-11 season.

As they’ve already proven, however, the Trojans aren’t going to let the past define them. Center Grove has already knocked off four teams that defeated them last season and is confident in their ability to compete with anyone, including a tough, well-disciplined Carmel team. Senior guard Marcus Ankney is the Trojans’ most experienced veteran; he understands what type of game the Greyhounds want to play and how to go up against it.

“The experience I have from playing against them in the past will definitely help me know what to expect,” Ankney said. “Carmel has a very solid defense, and they are a very disciplined, mature team. Knowing that, on offense we will need to take a good shot every time.”

Alongside Ankney, the Trojans’ have been led offensively by junior guard Joey Schmitz. It has been a breakout year for the junior, and Schmitz knows that simply sticking to his game is critical versus such a high powered defense.

“Carmel has one of the best defensive fronts in the state, so this game will be more of a team effort on the offensive end,” Schmitz said. “My shots should come naturally, but it will be nothing more than it is normally.”

The only blemish on the Trojans’ record this season came last Friday against No. 14 ranked Kokomo, a game that saw the Trojans fall on a last second Kokomo bucket. 

Notwithstanding the loss, junior forward Will Spellman held his own against Kokomo’s Flory Bidunga, ranked No. 4 nationally. Spellman knows the importance of playing through the post, and he believes that last week’s game will provide him a boost of confidence.

“Flory is a great player with a big impact on the defensive end and being able to handle my own against him really helps my confidence going into this week,” Spellman said. “On the other hand, it lights a fire under you losing such a hard fought game. Getting the ball to the paint tonight is going to be a crucial part of the game with how Carmel’s defense plays. We’ve just got to keep moving the ball like we have been and make the easy plays.”

Entering this week, the team was dealt a dose of adversity as forwards Garrett Messer and Peyton Byrd are unlikely to play tonight. In light of this, the Trojans will have to look to their remaining backups for a crucial lift off the bench. Senior guard Owen Baker has been that lift all season long and expects to continue that tonight.

“With the injuries we have had, I’m going to make sure I am ready for when my number is called,” Baker said. “Diving for loose balls, guarding on the defensive end, and hitting open shots has been my role throughout the year, and I plan on keeping that going tonight. We need to be the tougher team to win, so I’m going to do everything I can to help us be just that.”