NEW CASTLE — Another season, another tough pill to swallow.
With its 48-44 defeat at the hands of Anderson on Wednesday night at New Castle, Greenfield-Central exited the sectional tournament for a 12th straight year without a victory.
Cougars coach Michael Lewis said he had no problem pinpointing what went wrong after the game.
“We played a terrible first half, and this was the result,” said the first-year coach. “We played scared. That’s just the bottom line. We played scared.”
The outlook, however, wasn’t bleak from the tip.
The Cougars, led by Chandler Bean, played the Indians tight through the first period. After falling behind 13-7, Bean streaked through the paint for an easy layup and followed it up 20 seconds later with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to pull Greenfield-Central within one.
That, however, was the closest the Cougars could manage.
ZacAree Owens led the Indians to a dominating 13-4 second-quarter victory, stretching the lead to 30-18 at intermission.
Owens diced the Cougars defense for eight points in the first two quarters, including a halftime buzzer-beater. He also led Anderson in their dominance on the glass. The sophomore grabbed seven rebounds to help his team take a 15-6 advantage into the break. He would finish the game with a team-high 15 points.
“Either you want to go check someone out, or you don’t,” Lewis said. “And we didn’t fight for space. In a sectional game, you have to fight for space every single possession, and we didn’t do that. The second half was a completely different story.”
Not only did the Cougars play to an 11-11 tie in second-half rebounds, but their defense also started to play with more intensity.
They held the Indians to just three buckets in the finals two quarters after allowing 12 in the first half.
Season-long leading scorer Tate Hall also got going. After banking three points in the first half, he put up 13 in the second, including a late third-quarter 3-pointer that trimmed the Indians’ edge to 36-30. Hall finished the game with a team-high 16 points and nine rebounds.
Kirill Shoellman and Dallas Pribble hit back-to-back layups with less that six minutes to go in the game to cut the margin to two, but they could cut it no further.
Turnovers and missed shots plagued the Cougars in the finals minutes of their season, and Anderson hit enough free throws to seal their fate.
“I just told them how proud I was of their resilience,” Lewis said of his comments to his team in the postgame locker room. “We had a lot of ups and down this year. Probably more than the average team. Lost a lot of close games, but those seniors have a lot to be proud of.”
Notes: Anderson advanced to the sectional semifinals Friday against Connersville, which upended Pendleton Heights 49-47 in overtime Wednesday night. The Spartans last won a sectional title in 1997. The Indians have not won a title since 2009. The Cougars’ most recent sectional title was in 1998. … Anderson has now won just two of its past 10 games. … The Cougars have not defeated Anderson in 30 years. The Indians are 7-0 against Greenfield-Central in that span.