Boys basketball team takes on Whiteland in second round of Johnson County Tournament


Sam Findley

Senior Marcus Ankney drives past Carmel defenders in the Trojans’ 43-41 win on Jan. 6. Ankney secured the team’s win with two free throws in the last second of play.

Addison Wiesmann, Staff Writer

Beginning the season with a program record 9-0 start, the Trojans are prepared for the weekend’s games. Tonight, the varsity boys basketball team takes on Whiteland in the second round of the Johnson County Tournament. 

No. 5 ranked Center Grove has only one blemish on the record so far, falling to Kokomo 51-49 on a last second buzzer beater. Despite the loss, the team has continued unfazed, taking down Warren Central, Carmel and Jennings County, all who are ranked in the top 10. Their record demonstrates that the Trojans have improved significantly.

Last season the Trojans faced Whiteland in the county championship and fell 46-43. That was the second meeting of the teams on the year, with Center Grove posting a convincing 15-point victory only a month earlier. That loss serves as motivation for the Trojans to build upon what they’ve already accomplished this year. In the team’s sixth game of their season, they defeated Whiteland 81-52.

Junior forward Will Spellman understands that beating a team back-to-back presents a unique challenge. He explains that the Trojans will have to improve and get better on the defensive end if they want to win.

“We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing all season,” Spellman said. “It’s got to be a team effort with not just one person carrying this team. Our depth will be a big factor going into tournament time. We have 9-10 guys that we can all rely on to play, which is big for tournaments, making sure the guys are always fresh.”  

The Trojans are led by senior guard Marcus Ankney. Ankney, a four-year varsity starter, has found himself in big moments throughout his career. Last weekend, with the game on the line, he secured victory for the Trojans on back-to-back nights after draining two crucial free throws in the last seconds of the game. He recognizes that making game winning plays is something the team needs to be ready for.

“I shoot free throws after practice every day, so I was prepared to make those shots,” Ankney said. “In the moment I blocked out all the noise, and focused on making the shots, and that’s what I did. This weekend we have a chance to play for a championship, so you never know what the game might come down to. We’ve shown that we can perform under pressure and that won’t change this weekend.” 

The past 13 games have prepared the Trojans to stay with their game and come ready to play. Head Coach Zach Hahn said the team needs to focus on playing each game one possession at a time. 

“We prepare for regular season games the same way we prepare for tournament games, which creates consistency and confidence in our approach to every team we play,” Hahn said. “Success for this team would be winning the tournament by simply being the ‘hardest playing team in the state.’” 

The Trojans have made it to the county championship game eight years in a row, yet they have only won four of those eight.

“It’s important to play for championships but more important to win them,” Hahn said. “Winning breeds winning and a culture of winning gives us a chance to make some noise in March.”