Greenwood defense, experience slows Cougars in season opener

Greenfield-Central head coach Bradley Key gives his team some last minute advice before the start of their game against Yorktown on Jan. 26, 2021. (Rob Baker/Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — It was a battle of two youthful teams.

There was one big difference.

One team was youthful with experience.

With much of its same lineup back from a year ago, Greenwood handed Greenfield-Central a 56-20 defeat in both teams’ girls basketball season openers Thursday at Greenfield-Central High School.

The Cougars are young, too, but most of their lineup is made up of first-year varsity players.

“You watch the film from last year, the team that we played is exactly the same team they had. The team we had is not even close to the same team,” Greenfield-Central head coach Bradley Key said. “They went through the ringer last year being young, but they’re all back now.

“We have a full new team, for the most part. It’s not an excuse. We just have to get better.”

Greenfield-Central won a low-scoring battle in last year’s season opener at Greenwood, 27-19.

The Cougars have just two seniors, Annan Tiede and Audrey Pechin, but neither entered tonight with much varsity playing time. Greenwood has just one senior, Quinn Kelly. She was the Woodmen’s co-leading scorer on last year’s 3-15 team with a 9.4 scoring average.

“Coach Key does a great job with his girls and we always have a tough game against Greenfield-Central,” Greenwood head coach Justin Bennett said. “The one thing I’ve told the girls, there’s no substitute for experience. This being year No. 4 for me and year No. 3 for a lot of girls in the program, that experience showed today. They were more comfortable in their roles, more comfortable doing things we’ve asked them to do in the past.”

Greenwood took control in the final two minutes-plus of the first quarter and never looked back.

An 8-0 run in the final 2:29 of the opening period gave Greenwood an 11-3 lead. Most of it came from junior guard Lily Howe.

Tied 3-3, Howe scored off a steal, hit a jumper on the next possession and added another bucket after a theft for a 9-3 Greenwood advantage.

“Defensively, Lily Howe is our catalyst. She really gets after it,” Bennett said. “(Howe) and (junior guard) Emily Metzger love to guard those two basketball handlers. They take pride in their defense, and I think everybody else follows their lead with that.”

G-C trailed 27-12 at halftime. The points came off four 3-pointers. Three were from freshmen. Chaney Brown scored the Cougars’ first field goal of the season with 5:38 to go in the first quarter for a brief 3-2 lead. Frosh Brooklyn McConnell had the opening bucket of the second quarter to end Greenwood’s 8-0 run and cut the deficit to 11-6.

Frosh Josie White and junior Taylor Smith also had first-half treys.

Howe, a junior, led all scorers with 16 points. They all came in the first half.

The Greenwood defense helped force 14 first-quarter G-C turnovers. The Cougars had 21 miscues in the first half.

“I thought Greenwood did a good job putting a lot of pressure on us,” Key said. “Our inexperience definitely showed early on. Add not hitting a lot of shots, it snowballed from there.

“There are a lot of correctable things. We gave them some fast-break layups that probably should have been contested a little better. We have a lot of room to grow. It was the first game of the season and a lot of young kids out there. We saw some good things. I thought Audrey Pechin, a senior, did a good job playing for us and Josie White (a freshman) hasn’t played a lot of varsity with us, but the last couple weeks has done a great job stepping in.”

The Cougars played without 5-10 junior Schuyler Sparks, who provides both size and experience to the lineup.

Brown led G-C with five points. McConnell, Smith and White each had three. Tiede, Pechin and Aryanna Hibbard all scored two points.

Greenwood got points from nine different players. Following Howe, Josie Ochsner, off the bench, scored nine points on three second-half 3-pointers. Kelly and Brooklyn Bell each scored eight.

Greenwood got 18 points from its bench, including four from sophomore Jessica Lott. Starter Ella Stivers also had four points. Kira Faulkner added a trey and Metzger and Lily Hommell each scored two.

The Cougars return to action Saturday at Whiteland. Greenwood plays host to Bloomington North on Saturday.