NEW CASTLE — The Greenfield-Central Cougars had a game plan in place early. Play it slow. Work the ball. Find the open man. Set the pace.
The host New Castle Trojans had other ideas in mind, however, and it kept them in the hunt in a tight Hoosier Heritage Conference race.
Behind 5-4 early, the Trojans (9-1, 3-1 HHC) flipped the switch to lead 21-12 by halftime. A barrage of 3-pointers to open the second half put the game out of reach as New Castle won 53-37.
“We have to do a better job collectively to understand that every possession matters, especially when you play someone as talented as New Castle,” Cougars head coach Michael Lewis said. “When you start off the second half and have four possessions with two threes for them and two turnovers for us, it’s going to be hard for us to recover.”
The Trojans hit four straight 3-pointers to open the second half and put together a damaging 20-4 run. They converted eight treys overall and scored 22 points in the third quarter to hand the Cougars their second consecutive HHC loss.
Greenfield-Central (5-7, 2-2 HHC) led the league after opening HHC play 2-0 before falling to Mt. Vernon last week 69-42. The rival Marauders used a similar formula, winning the perimeter game and taking a substantial lead behind 3-point shooting.
New Castle big man, Mason Gillis, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, commanded the paint and drew in the defense, finishing with a game-high 15 points and seven rebounds.
Titen Bennett, a 6-6, 230-pound senior center, had 10 points, scoring eight in the third quarter, including two 3-pointers.
Sophomore Luke Bumbalough added nine points for the Trojans, who lit up the scoreboard with four 3-pointers in the third quarter and were 9 of 14 from the field.
“I have to do a better job of making sure our team is better prepared coming out of halftime,” Lewis said. “That’s on me. To be competitive against a team of that caliber, we can’t afford to have two- or three-minute lulls.”
The Cougars fell behind by as many as 25 points but charged back late in the second half as Brian Long had all of his team-high eight points int he final quarter.
Will O’Conner had six points off of a pair of 3-pointers, while Matt Turner finished with seven points. Josh Mundell had a team-best six rebounds.
The Cougars return home tonight and host Triton Central at 7:30 p.m., looking to stop their two-game skid.
“This is something we have to battle through and stay focused on the process,” Lewis said. “Hopefully, we play a little bit better (today).”