GREENFIELD — Through foul-trouble adversity — four of five Greenfield-Central starters had four fouls with over three minutes remaining — and an aggressive 8-win opponent in Muncie Central playing like it had nothing to lose, Greenfield-Central found a way to get to a boys basketball sectional championship game for the first time since 1998.

After a combined 49 fouls and 59 free-throw attempts, undefeated Greenfield-Central survived a 54-44 Class 4A Sectional 9 semifinal game against the Bearcats at Greenfield-Central’s Dellen Automotive Gymnasium Friday.

The Cougars continued their school-record winning streak and remain the state’s only unbeaten team with a 24-0 record.

At 7:30 p.m. tonight, the sixth-ranked Cougars take on rival 15th-ranked New Palestine for a chance to win the school a boys basketball sectional title for the first time since 1998.

New Palestine (21-5) hit a last-second shot to win Friday’s first semifinal game, 60-58, over Pendleton Heights.

“You can say what you want about Muncie Central’s record, but records are out the window once you get into sectional play,” Greenfield-Central head coach Luke Meredith. “They just put out a 20-win Richmond team [in the quarterfinals] and played with nothing to lose and with a ton of confidence.

“I thought they stymied us a little bit with their defense and athletic pressure … but our guys found a way. We’re 24-0 because our kids are resilient, great young men. It’s not easy. … This was one of those games, you just have to grind out a win. It was ugly, an ugly win, but that’s a credit to these kids.”

Muncie Central committed 28 fouls and sent the Cougars to the line for 36 free-throw attempts. G-C hit 25 for 69.4 percent accuracy. The Cougars had 21 fouls and Muncie Central hit 19 of 23 tries (82.6 percent).

Greenfield-Central senior Jake Hinton fouled out, while junior all-state candidate Braylon Mullins, Braden Robertson and Dallas Freeman all finished the game with four fouls. Muncie Central had two players foul out (LJ Strange and Terry Miles) and had three other players finish the game with four fouls.

Freeman, a junior, had a double-double with team highs in points (17) and rebounds (13). Mullins, who came in average 26.1 points per game, had to work extra hard for his 16 points. He had three field goals and went 9 of 13 at the free-throw line.

Muncie Central’s DeMarkis Cole led all scorers with 24 points. He was 14 of 17 at the charity stripe.

Meredith called the game ugly, but he knows at this point in the season it’s all about surviving and advancing.

It’s been 26 years since the Cougars have played in a sectional championship game. In 1998, they won the Class 3A sectional at Shelbyville.

They’ll not only get a chance to win a sectional for the first time since before the players were born, but they get the chance on their home floor against big rival New Palestine.

The Cougars beat the Dragons in a Dec. 8 regular season game at New Palestine, 58-54.

“I told them [after the game] you got an opportunity to play your biggest rival, at home, for the sectional championship. Who wouldn’t want that?” Meredith said. “[New Palestine] is playing real well right now, but who wouldn’t want that opportunity.”

On Friday, the Cougars took the lead for good on a Freeman 3-pointer midway through the first quarter, but the trip to the finish line was bumpy.

In the second quarter, Freeman and junior guard Boston Willard had back-to-back steals and layups. Willard followed with a triple to give the Cougars a 22-7 lead.

Muncie Central kept hanging around. The Bearcats cut it to seven, 23-16 at halftime, and went on a 7-3 run to start the second half to cut it to 26-23 with 5:57 left in the third.

“It’s a dream come true ever since I started coming to [Greenfield-Central] games and watching Tate Hall [a G-C Athletic Hall of Famer who later played at Loyola-Chicago],” Freeman said of playing for a sectional title tonight “It’s every kids dream that plays sports to get to the sectional championship and have a chance to compete in the game at that level. I think everyone on our team would say this is all they could ask for and what we have strived for all season.”

Greenfield-Central 54, Muncie Central 44

Muncie Central;4;12;14;14;—;44


Muncie Central (8-17): DeMarkis Cole 5 14-17 24, Landen Wells 1 0-0 3, LJ Strange 1 0-0 2, X’aviya Cook 2 1-2 5, Brady McNabb 1 4-4 7, Shemar Taylor 1 0-0 3, Terry Miles 0 0-0 0, Jovon Williams 0 0-0 0, Gabe Reynolds 0 0-0 0, Kye Hiatt. Totals: 11 19-23 44.

Greenfield-Central (24-0): Dallas Freeman 5 6-9 17, Braden Robertson 0 4-6 4, Jake Hinton 2 4-6 8, Braylon Mullins 3 9-13 16, Boston Willard 3 2-2 9, Cooper Robertson 0 0-0 0, Brady Johnson 0 0-0 0, Tucker Brown 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 25-36 54.

3-point goals: Muncie Central 3 (Wells, McNabb, Taylor); Greenfield-Central 3 (Freeman, Mullins, Willard).