GREENFIELD — Greenfield-Central’s girls basketball team sat front and center on the opposite side of the court, like students in a classroom. Watching a battle take place between New Castle and Pendleton Heights in the first semifinal of Sectional 9 Friday, the Cougars grew more familiar with their two potential opponents for the sectional championship.
But first, Greenfield-Central had to get there itself.
After watching New Castle pull off a mild upset in the first game, the host Cougars took care of business after a sloppy start, topping longtime rival Mt. Vernon 53-27 in the second semifinal.
In a hot-shooting second quarter, seniors Madison Wise and Katie Helgason and freshman Kyrstin Bond each nailed 3-pointers to help Greenfield-Central run away with the victory and a chance to repeat as sectional champions. The Cougars outscored the Marauders 45-23 after holding a slim 8-4 lead heading into the second period.
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Wise had 18 points by halftime and finished with a game-high 26. She also added 10 rebounds in a double-double effort. Freshman guard Hannah Farrell contributed 11 points and seven rebounds.
Farrell, who has been a steady presence in the backcourt for injury-riddle Greenfield-Central (17-10), was asked to pick up even more slack Friday after sophomore guard Kate Real, the team’s third leading scorer, tore her ACL Thursday in the Cougars’ sectional walk through.
She played a key role in Greenfield-Central’s full court, 1-2-2 press and helped force the Marauders into 18 turnovers.
“Coach (Laker) wanted us to trap harder and cause more pressure, because they couldn’t handle that very well,” Farrell said of the second quarter burst. “We have a lot of length, with me and Maddie (Wise), and speed too.
“(In the first quarter) we weren’t passing the ball very well. We weren’t sharing the ball or moving it at all.”
Mt. Vernon (6-17) was led in scoring by Lindsey Hartl, Sophie Williams and Mary Fleming, who each scored six points in the loss.
In the first semifinal of the night, New Castle led Pendleton Heights 40-36 at the end of the third quarter and held on for a 59-45 win. The Cougars and Trojans will meet tonight for the sectional championship at 7:30 p.m.
“We didn’t play our best against (New Castle) the first time, but we can do it,” Farrell said. “They played really good in the first game, and we’ll have to bring our best.”
After both teams shot 2 of 8 from the field in the first quarter, Greenfield-Central opened the second by hitting four of its first five buckets. Increasing their lead to 19-7 after back-to-back triples from Wise, the Cougars closed the half on a 7-3 run to take a 26-10 lead into the break.
“Give our kids credit, we got the tempo going,” Greenfield-Central head coach Doug Laker said. “We had the press going a little bit and our half court trap. The games in the tournament, though, are won in the paint and at the foul line. We did that.”
The Cougars finished the first half 8 of 18 from the field, while the Marauders were 4 of 15. The teams combined for 16 turnovers in the first quarter and 22 in the half.
For the game, Greenfield-Central held a 32-23 rebounding advantage and finished 17 of 40 (42 percent) from the field. Mt. Vernon finished 10-for-36 (27 percent).
Also for the Marauders, seniors Hanna Johnson and Megan Gawrys each scored three points in their final games. Johnson led the team with five rebounds.
Sophomore Brooke Andrus added five points off the bench for the Cougars, while Morganne Denny scored four.
During the regular season, Greenfield-Central beat New Castle 42-41. Laker knows, especially after the win over Pendleton Heights, that the Trojans will present just as big of a test as the Arabians, who won the Hoosier Heritage Conference outright.
“(Corie West) is a great person and coach, and I am happy for her,” Laker said. “She loves the game and her kids. They are doing a great job and play hard all the time. They really took it to Pendleton Heights tonight.”