GREENFIELD — Midway through the fourth quarter Thursday night, Greenfield-Central senior Austin Lester saw his opening and didn’t hesitate.
Setting up outside the arc and hitting nothing but net, the Cougars’ faithful erupted. Fittingly, from the opening tip, the Greenfield-Central offense never stopped either, and it led to a decisive 71-46 win over the Knightstown Panthers on Senior Night.
Greenfield-Central senior Will O’Connor finished with a game-high 31 points, while every senior on the roster scored at least one point, as the Cougars snapped an eight-game losing streak with a barrage of execution.
“It feels great. Going through a season like this, losing all those overtime games; the record is kind of deceiving in how good we are,” O’Connor remarked after the Cougars improved to 5-13 on the season. “To finally come back and lay it on someone like that, play hard and play together, it’s fun to win one every now and again and to finally get over the hump.”
Prior to winning, Greenfield-Central hadn’t claimed a victory since Dec. 29 against Indianapolis Herron. Since that game, the program lost two games in overtime, including a quadruple bonus period showdown with rival Mt. Vernon, and three by five points or less.
The key this time around was chemistry and tone, which the five seniors set as starters. As a group, they combined to score 63 points. Lester finished with 12 points, Matt Turner added nine, Ian Robertson had two and Brian Long posted nine with eight rebounds.
“We’ve never all played together at the same time, except for AAU and travel ball growing up in junior high, so it was a lot of fun,” O’Connor said.
Often running the court together on the black top during the summer, the seniors took their playground chemistry to the hardwood and built an 18-9 lead by the end of the first quarter.
With many of them still in the game, the margin grew to 23 points by halftime before Lester opened it up to a game-high 31 points in the third quarter, following up his 3-pointer with a pair of free throws, 69-38.
The Cougars shot 52 percent from the floor in the first half and never let up, posting a game-best 20 points in the final quarter.
“Tonight was about not just coming out and getting a win but setting the tone we knew we could set, playing up to our level and our potential,” Greenfield-Central head coach Lukas Haworth said. “I was very proud of our boys for the effort and energy they came out with and when you come out with that type of energy and effort, the scoreboard is going to take care of itself.”
Jarred Porter led the visiting Panthers (5-11) with 14 points, while Jose Olivo had 11. The loss pushed Knightstown’s current losing streak to seven straight.
With the streak over for Greenfield-Central, now they hope to turn the corner. The Cougars have four more games until the end of the regular season.
“If we get things clicking, since we’ve been in so many closes games, we’ll be ready for that situation,” said O’Connor.
A big reason for the Cougars perseverance, Haworth said, is the seniors.
“When you go through a season like this the only thing you’re afraid of is, do we break? Because of the senior leaders we have that hasn’t even come close to happening,” Haworth said. “I’m so thrilled that they had the night that they had tonight.”