MUNCIE — Toughness, grittiness, juice, and the ability to stick shots — all things that are brought up every time you ask Greenfield-Central head coach Luke Meredith about his team.
On Wednesday night, and for nearly the first time all season, one of those things couldn’t be found.
The Cougars were defeated 55-48 by Anderson in the IHSAA Class 4A Sectional 9 quarterfinals at Muncie Central to end a record-breaking season in which they won the most games in school history, 21.
A team that lived and died from 3-point range all season long — making 172 on the season at a 44% clip — couldn’t buy a three-ball all game long. The Cougars’ first made 3-pointer didn’t come until there were four minutes remaining in the third quarter, and on the night they went just 2-for-14.
“I don’t think it was the atmosphere, or that the moment was too big for us, I just think we missed shots. We did what we do, we were shooting in the gym at 7:15 a.m,” Meredith said. “We just didn’t make enough plays down the stretch. Against their athleticism and their zone and what they do in that 1-3-1, you’re going to have to stick shots, and unfortunately we just weren’t able to tonight.”
The other three things that have become synonymous with Greenfield-Central — juice, toughness, and grittiness — were on full display.
The Cougars fell down 9-0 to open the game, and then 14-3 before a 5-0 run to end the quarter and the first basket of the second period cut the Anderson lead down to 14-10.
After a Ja’Quan Ingram basket, sophomore Braylon Mullins reeled off five straight points to move G-C within one, 16-15.
One point was the closest the Cougars would get all game, and it happened on multiple occasions. The two teams traded baskets to close the half with scores of 16-15, 18-17, and 20-19 before Anderson’s leading scorer Ahmere Carson scored his first basket of the game in the closing seconds to put the Indians up 22-19.
“We were down 9-0, 14-3, this team just kept battling and fighting,” Meredith said. “It was gritty, and I’m proud of the way we competed, but we just didn’t have enough tonight.”
The Cougars found themselves climbing out of another hole in the third quarter after an Ingram backdoor cut and open layup pushed the lead back up to nine, 35-26.
Three straight baskets, capped off by a Mullins layup-and-the-foul, pushed the lead back to that familiar number of one.
As they had all night long, though, the Indians had an answer of their own. Another backdoor cut layup by Ingram and then a steal and dunk by Damien King ended six straight Anderson points. Ingram and King led the Indians with 20 and 15, respectively.
“We had to key on Carson, he’s their dude. But Ingram getting 20 on some lob plays, it’s hard to get around (6-foot-7 Jaylen) Murphy,” Meredith said. “When we were keying Carson, we knew we had to give some other things up, and we gave up Ingram, and he had a good night. He’s an athletic player.”
A Jacob Hinton layup and steal and basket by Mullins got G-C right back into things, but it was a basket that didn’t count that made all the difference.
In a 41-38 game, Mullins tipped back a missed shot, and after the basket went in, was called for an offensive foul.
“I thought Braylon was really good tonight,” Meredith said. “I thought the call when they called over the back, we didn’t have the lead the whole game, so for that play to go that way was just a huge momentum shift because I think the place would’ve erupted.”
Two Dylan Moles free throws pulled the Cougars back within two in the final two minutes, but another 9-0 Anderson run, and a Carson basket-and-the-foul put the exclamation point on the night.
Mullins led all G-C scorers with 19, and Moles added 11.
“I told the guys that I don’t have the words right now to say what this team means to me and what it means to the school and our community. It’ll hit me at some point,” Meredith said. “Winning 18 in a row, 21 games, it’s just tough having to go out like this.”
Anderson 55, Greenfield-Central 48
Greenfield-Central;8;11;15;14; — ;48
Anderson;14;8;15;18; — ;55
Greenfield-Central (21-2): Dylan Moles 2 6-7 11, Braylon Mullins 6 6-6 19, Tyler Kerkhof 1 3-3 5, Will DeJarnett 0 2-2 2, Owen Anderson 1 1-4 3, Braden Robertson 2 2-2 6, Jacob Hinton 1 0-0 2. Totals: 13 20-24 48.
Anderson (20-4): Ahmere Carson 4 3-3 12, Ja’Quan Ingram 9 1-3 20, Jaylen Murphy 3 2-2 8, Damien King 7 0-0 15, Alex Troutman 0 0-0 0, Louis Jackson 0 0-0 0, Javon Warfield 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 6-8 55.
3-point goals: Greenfield-Central 2 (Mullins 1, Moles 1), Anderson 3 (Ingram 1, Carson 1, King 1)