GREENFIELD — Hannah Farrell peered up at the scoreboard Saturday afternoon and knew she had to make something happen.
With her Greenfield-Central Cougars down by nearly 30 points and the third-quarter clock winding fast against visiting Hamilton Heights, the sophomore guard ignored her sore ankle and went for it.
Driving toward the basket at full speed, Farrell let the ball fly, burying a runner to beat the buzzer. It was a small victory amidst a tough 59-35 loss at home.
Yet, considering the hits the Cougars have taken over the past two months, even something so minute is important during a season on the mend.
“We just have to keep going,” Farrell said after the Cougars lost their second straight to drop to 4-10 on the season. “I don’t know. We didn’t expect (the injuries), but you have to keep going.”
Farrell has lived by her own words since the high school season began in early November. Slowed by an ankle injury suffered during her AAU season, the starting point guard no sooner healed up before she hurt her other ankle.
“I don’t even know which one it is anymore,” Farrell joked as she pointed to her mildly swollen sprained right ankle. “I’m taking breaks during games, trying to get some rest and hopefully, it will pay off. I’m still doing rehab, too.”
During the Cougars most recent game Dec. 19, Farrell’s older sister, Jessica, a senior, crumbled to the floor at the Connersville’s Spartan Bowl, just one minute into Greenfield-Central’s 40-35 road loss.
Jessica was sidelined most of the 2016-17 season with an anterior cruciate ligament tear. She tore her ACL two games into her junior year and after six months of rehabilitation and recovery, she returned to the court for a dozen games this year.
Now on crutches after her recent injury, she is officially out for the season — again — with another ACL tear. Her surgery is scheduled for next week.
“It was rough, but she’s strong,” Hannah Farrell remarked on her sister’s recent setback. “I know she’ll get through it.”
Like Hannah Farrell, the Cougars are doing all they can to stay positive and remain focused on their season-long goals, which doesn’t include non-conference games like Saturday’s.
Hamstrung by injuries, the Greenfield-Central roster has nine active players at head coach Joshua Mean’s disposal, which has hurt bench depth. Sophomore Samantha Kihega is out with a concussion, along with Brittnay Wheeler, a senior that was providing 7.3 points a night through 11 games played.
Junior Kate Real, while active as a starter, remains limited, being just 10 months removed from tearing her ACL for the second time in three years.
“We’re playing three or four sophomores, a freshman and one healthy junior and a junior that’s playing on one good leg, so we just don’t have a lot of kids with varsity minutes,” Means said. “We didn’t think we were going to have to do that as much because we thought with Brit and Jess and Hannah and Kate coming back, we had a good core of four. And then, we could rotate kids in and let them grow slower.
“But with Jess being hurt and out, and Brittnay’s concussion, and Kate can only play limited minutes; we now have two players with serious varsity experience.”
Both are also far from 100 percent, but they’re pushing through.
Hannah Farrell scored a team-high 15 points and went 4 of 6 from the free-throw line against Hamilton Heights. Real, who is averaging 10.7 points per game, rolled off a pair of screens to bury two 3-pointers — her true knack in the backcourt — to finish with 10 points.
On the other side, the Huskies (6-5) used a pair of double-digit scorers in senior Kayla Kirtley (15 points) and sophomore Bayleigh Runner (16 points) to build a 32-point lead en route to their second straight win.
However, despite the Cougars’ fifth loss in seven games, nothing has changed. Greenfield-Central is still 3-1 in Hoosier Heritage Conference contests at second overall in the standings behind New Palestine and Pendleton Heights, who are tied at 5-1.
Pendleton Heights’ lone HHC loss this season was, oddly enough, against the Cougars, 57-50, on Nov. 17.
“We’re just trying to have the mentality of getting focused for our conference games,” Farrell said. “That’s the most important thing. These (non-conference) games don’t really matter.”
Regaining their health is equally a priority for the Cougars with their final three HHC games scheduled consecutively, beginning on Jan. 12 at home against New Castle. They host rival Mt. Vernon on Jan. 19 before traveling to Yorktown on Jan. 23.
In the interim, the program’s future is gaining experience in the present. Sophomore Crystal Peterson, junior Lydia McIntire and sophomore Grace Rosemeyer each contributed on Saturday. Addison Hill, a freshman, chipped in four points.
Rosemeyer and Peterson showed their potential on defense even though the game was well out of reach by halftime. Rosemeyer displayed her grit by taking a full-speed charge to force a Huskies’ turnover late in the third quarter. Peterson had moments of defensive brilliance and was a perfect 2-for-2 from the foul line.
“It’s going to take time with them getting minutes and getting used to the speed and intensity. We’ve got four more games until our next conference game, so hopefully that’s enough to get them battled tested and ready to go,” Mean said.
The Greenfield-Central Holiday Classic next week will be an ideal setting for exactly that, Means added. A four-team, two-day round robin event, the Cougars open against Hauser on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. On Thursday, they face Indianapolis Herron at noon and Winchester at 7:30 p.m.
“We knew it would be different this season, but then again you have to step up and make things happen,” said Hannah Farrell, who is averaging 14.6 points per game. “I knew I had to step up as a leader and in scoring and on defense, and it’s been pretty good.”
With some luck and health, it could be even better by the time the postseason rolls around.
Hamilton Heights 59, Greenfield-Central 35
HAMILTON HEIGHTS (6-5): Branham 3 1-2 7, Kirtley 5 2-2 15, Collar 4 0-0 8, Runner 4 4-5 16, Dissett 2 0-0 6, Thomas 2 0-0 4, Wiley 2 0-0 4, Osswald 0 0-0 0. Totals: 22 7-9 59.
GREENFIELD-CENTRAL (4-10): H. Farrell 5 4-6 15, Real 3 2-2 10, Peterson 0 2-2 2, McIntire 1 0-0 2, Rosemeyer 0 2-2 2, Hill 2 0-0 4. Totals: 11 10-12 35.
3-Pointers: HH 8 (Kirtley 3, Runner 3, Dissett 2), GC 3 (Farrell 1, Real 2).