Cougars bounce back, thrash Tigers in home opener

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By James Howell Jr. /For Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD — The Greenfield-Central boys basketball team returned to action on Friday night with its home opener against the Hagerstown Tigers.

Looking to bounce back from their season-opening loss to the Beech Grove Hornets on Nov. 23, the G-C Cougars (1-1) got what they needed and more with a 71-40 thrashing of the visiting Hagerstown Tigers (1-3).

After the loss to the Hornets, G-C head coach Luke Meredith remarked that he saw a difference in his team’s confidence, and Friday night’s game helped his Cougars bounce back and reset.

“After that Beech Grove loss, we just weren’t ourselves,” Meredith said. “After going in thinking we were something, I started to see our guys doubt and think, ‘well maybe we aren’t what we thought we were’. We had to break that down in practice, and we needed to prove it to ourselves tonight and we did. Hagerstown is a quick and tough team, but our guys handled their jobs so well and we did what we needed to do.”

The Cougars got hot early, perhaps fueling the confidence they were able to build throughout the night. Within the first 3:23 of game action, the Cougars hit a pair of 3-pointers and cruised ahead to a 14-5 lead. From there, the shots kept falling.

Freshman Braylon Mullins, after being held to just five points in his first-career game, showed why he is not only getting varsity minutes, but starting for the Cougars. Along with eight points from Joey Roland, Mullins scored eight of his own in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Mullins turned up the heat by drilling three consecutive 3-point shots to cushion the Cougars’ lead. He led the Cougars into the half with 17 points and a 40-14 lead.

With the large lead, the Cougars were able to slow their pace slightly in the second half and settle into offense that shined a light on their ability to move the ball effectively. Dylan Moles’ and Adam Lester’s abilities to find teammates in the second half allowed each player to end the night with six assists.

Meredith spoke highly of the duo for stepping into their roles nicely.

“Moles is a great leader for us,” Meredith said. “He could truly be an Indiana Junior All-Star if you ask me. He does everything he needs to do and is always happy to do it. He went out and scored in the 20s like he needed to in order for us to stay close with Beech Grove, and then tonight, he only got 12 points, but he came up big with assists and rebounds and was very happy to do that for us. And then Lester was great at moving the ball too and being an all-around great teammate.”

Moles and Lester weren’t the only two Meredith had high praise for after the dominant showing.

“Joey Roland was huge tonight,” Meredith said. “He finished with 15 points and most of it came from just his pure athleticism. The guy is so athletic and gets to the rim nicely. Then Rune (Carpenter-Jones) and Rashawn (Street) always give us great hustle minutes. They’re not going to score a bunch every night, but their effort shows in rebounding, steals and much more.”

Carpenter-Jones was the Cougars’ leading rebounder on the night with nine. He also scored four points.

The motto of the Cougars this year is playing with hustle, energy and confidence or simply ‘juice’. The hustle and energy led the Cougars to hold the Tigers to just 11-for-32 shooting. G-C outrebounded the Tigers 30-16.

Mullins finished the night with a team-high 22 points and five 3-pointers. He also led the team with three steals.

All-in-all, the Cougars had 19 assists on 26 of 50 shooting from the court and hit 11 shots from behind the arc — a sight for sore eyes after the struggles the team had shooting at Beech Grove last week.

“Our guys made all of the changes we asked of them,” Meredith said. “We had to gain that confidence back before next week’s big games against Triton Central, who is probably going to come in undefeated, and against New Pal. If we carry this over to those games, I like our chances.”

The Cougars have three games in four nights next week as they host Triton Central on Wednesday before traveling to New Palestine on Friday night and returning home to host Speedway on Saturday. All three games are scheduled for 6 p.m. junior varsity tip offs with varsity to follow.

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