CHARLOTTESVILLE — It’s been a good 2023 for the Greenfield-Central Cougars boys basketball team.
In the last eight days, they’ve beat two Hancock County rivals and won in the biggest high school gymnasium in the world.
It’s a carryover from 2022.
A 57-46 victory Saturday at closest-foe Eastern Hancock was G-C’s seventh straight win.
The Cougars are 10-1 overall and just jumped into the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Poll at No. 20.
“For me, to start 2023, I said we’re going to find out about this team when we’re at Mt. Vernon, at New Castle on a Friday night and then show up Saturday and play Eastern Hancock at their place in front of this kind of crowd and this kind of environment on a Saturday in January,” Greenfield-Central coach Luke Meredith said. “I’m just really proud on how the guys competed and their poise. … Every single time this season I’ve challenged them they’ve responded. That’s a mark of great kids and where we’ve come as a program.”
After a second-half rally on the road to beat Mt. Vernon, 51-46 on Jan. 6, the Cougars dominated New Castle Friday, 73-48 in historic Chrysler Fieldhouse. Saturday’s win came in a packed gymnasium in Charlottesville where most seats were filled for the junior varsity game.
The Cougars jumped out quickly, leading 16-7 after the first quarter. As all expected the Class 2A Royals showed a lot of fight, cutting the margin to two, 19-17, with 3:10 left in the first half on a driving layup from junior Luke Morris.
The poise that Meredith mentioned showed in the final minutes of the opening half. Senior Tyler Kerkhof hit a pair of 3s and sophomore Braylon Mullins, who finished with a career-best 27, added another trey to wrap up a 9-2 run. At the half, the Cougars led 28-19.
“We made a nice little run there in the second quarter to get it to two. They hit three big shots to end the half and that was pretty much the separation of the game,” Eastern Hancock coach Aaron Spaulding said. “They’re a really good team. The county’s loaded.”
The county is loaded.
G-C’s lone loss is to undefeated New Palestine, which moved up to No. 10 in the latest IBCA rankings. The Dragons are 12-0 and are in midst of the best start in school history. The Royals are 9-5 but two of their losses are to the Cougars and the Dragons. They’ve lost to a pair class-ranked teams in Tindley and Wapahani and 4A Bloomington South. Mt. Vernon is 9-5 with three losses coming to ranked opponents (Greenfield-Central, Westfield, Lawrence Central). They lost in overtime to Marion County tourney semifinalist Southport, too and won the Roncalli Holiday Tournament.
“I’m not displeased with our effort tonight,” Spaulding said. “We don’t look at polls. We look at Sagarin ratings and (Greenfield-Central is) No. 11 in the state right now. They’re higher than any 2A team (we’ll face in the tournament). Our goal to start the year is, we’re going for it. If we can compete with them at least, according to the Sagarin ratings, we can compete with anybody. If we had some other things that went right (Saturday) maybe we would have given ourselves a better chance, but it didn’t go our way.”
The Cougars shot extremely well all night. They hit 57 percent from the field (19 of 33), including 7 of 16 (43 percent) from 3-point range.
Mullins was 9 of 13. He sealed it with 12 points in the final period, which included 6 of 7 free throws. The Cougars hit 10 of 12 (83 percent) at the line in the final period and 12 of 14 (87 percent) for the game.
“He’s just blossoming in front of our eyes as a sophomore,” Meredith said of his 6-4 standout.
The Cougars had three score in double figures. Following Mullins, senior standout Dylan Moles, headed to Marian University, scored 15. Senior Kerkhof scored 10. Along with the two first-half treys, he went 4 of 4 at the line in the final period.
“I thought our big three – Tyler Kerkhof, Dylan Moles and Braylon Mullins – really came to play,”Meredith added.
Coach Spaulding’s twin sons, seniors Jacob Spaulding and Silas Spaulding led the Royals. Jacob finished with 14 and Silas had 11.
Greenfield-Central is back in action today at Indianapolis Shortridge. Eastern Hancock hosts Monroe Central in a Mid-Eastern Conference contest Friday.
Greenfield-Central 57, Eastern Hancock 46
Greenfield-Central (10-1): Braylon Mullins 9 6-7 27, Will DeJarnett 1 0-1 2, Braden Robertson 0 0-0 0, Dylan Moles 6 2-2 15, Tyler Kerkhof 2 4-4 10, Owen Anderson 1 0-0 3, Jake Hinton 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 12-14 57.
Eastern Hancock (9-5): Edric Miller 0 2-2 2, Grant Gray 3 0-0 8, Kayden Ruble 2 0-0 4, Silas Spaulding 5 0-0 11, Jacob Spaulding 4 6-6 14, Luke Morris 2 3-4 7, Caiden Willis 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 11-12 46.
3-point goals: Greenfield-Central 7 (Mullins 3, Kerkhof 2, Moles, Anderson); Eastern Hancock 3 (Gray 2, S. Spaulding)