GREENFIELD — The Greenfield-Central girls were looking to avenge the past, while the boys were hoping to play spoiler on Tuesday night with Hoosier Heritage Conference rival New Castle in town.
The girls achieved their goal first, scoring some revenge against the visiting Trojans with a 44-38 victory in the opening game of the HHC doubleheader, which was postponed from Friday.
The boys, however, could do little to slow down the unbeaten Class 3A No. 1 Trojans, losing 73-55.
The New Castle girls were responsible of halting the Cougars’ aim at a repeat sectional bid a year ago, defeating Greenfield-Central 51-41 on on their own floor. On Tuesday, it was payback.
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“They knocked us out of sectional,” Greenfield-Central girls head coach Joshua Means said. “Our focus slipped a little in the third quarter tonight, doing things that weren’t us, but we got it back early in the fourth.”
The Cougars broke an early 8-all tie in the first quarter with an 11-2 run and maintained their advantage, leading 23-17 at halftime.
The margin swelled to 10 points early in the third quarter after Brittany Wheeler, who five points and nine rebounds, buried two free throws.
The Trojans, however, responded with an 8-2 run late in the frame, and they brought the game within two points at 33-31 before the fourth quarter.
That’s when the Cougars’ defense, elevated its game even more behind stout performances from Wheeler, Hannah Farrell and Crystal Peterson.
Keeping New Castle’s top player, Cameron Tabor, to a quiet 18 points, the Cougars (7-12, 4-1 HHC) contained their composure in the clutch to keep in the HHC championship race.
A layup by Farrell, followed by a 3-pointer by Kate Real put the Cougars up 38-31 with 5:51 left on the clock.
The Cougars converted 5 of 7 free throws down the stretch to keep the Trojans at bay.
“We had some extra time to prepare for this game, and Tabor is an excellent player and rightly so. Having those extra few days was probably the difference for us,” Means said. “I was surprised she had 18. I thought we did a really good job on her.”
Farrell led the Cougars with 20 points and eight rebounds, often drawing Tabor one-on-one and on the perimeter.
Real added seven points, while Addison Hill chipped in three points and seven rebounds. The Cougars out hustled the Trojans on the boards in the second half, winning the battle 21-8.
The win cemented the Cougars’ second-place standing in the HHC, ahead of Mt. Vernon (3-1) and behind both front-runners New Palestine (4-1) and Pendleton Heights (4-1), who play each other Thursday. The Cougars play Mt. Vernon on Friday.
“We talked about in the very first parent meeting and practice. We said we’re going to Popovich it,” Means said in reference to Gregg Popovich, head coach of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. “We’re not going to worry about non-conference games and stuff that doesn’t matter.
“Our focus has been on conference and sectional. In our conference and with schools our size, we’ve been competitive, and we have a chance to win the conference still, so we’re excited about that.”
The Cougars boys ran into a buzzsaw in their game against the Trojans, who improved to 14-0 on the season and 4-0 in the HHC.
Led by 6-foot-7 junior Mason Gillis, who is verbally committed to Butler, the Trojans scored first and never looked back after snapping a 4-all tie early on.
New Castle buried 15 3-pointers and Luke Bumbalough was the primary catalyst from deep.
The guard hit 7 of 9 from beyond the arc and finished with a game-high 29 points. Gillis, a projected Indiana All-Star in 2019, had 26 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks.
The duo powered the Trojans inside and out, pushing New Castle to a double-digit lead by the second quarter.
“That’s why they’re ranked No. 1 in the state. It’s hard to say there is much better of a combination around the state than Luke Bumbalough at point guard and Mason Gillis in the post. Those two guys alone are going to win you a lot of game,” Cougars boys coach Lukas Haworth said. “It’s a tough matchup. We did pretty good a lot of the time, but when we did break down, they made us pay.”
The margin grew to 20-plus points in the third quarter, but the Cougars chipped the deficit down to 16 points in the fourth.
Matt Turner led the Cougars (4-8, 1-3 HHC) with 14 points, while Will O’Connor had 11. Brady Mundell had eight points and six rebounds. Logan Graddy posted seven points for Greenfield-Central.