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Center Grove focused on Evansville North, as New Albany, Langford loom

Regional semifinal victory could set up meeting of two of Indiana’s top players

After winning the program’s first back-to-back sectional titles since the mid-1980s, Center Grove heads to Seymour on Saturday for a talent-packed and sold out Class 4A regional that includes No. 3 New Albany (23-1) and superstar Romeo Langford, No. 5 Bloomington South (26-2) and Evansville North (13-12)

The Trojans (19-6) start the day against North, which entered sectional play under .500, but beat 16-win Castle in a rematch of a game North lost by 12 just two weeks earlier.

“We’re only focused on Game 1. The second you look past anybody is the second you’re done,” Center Grove coach Zach Hahn said. “As coaches, we’ll be prepared for New Albany and Bloomington South, but our players' sole focus has to be Evansville North.”

Half of Center Grove’s losses this season came against teams still playing (Warren Central, Ben Davis, Carmel), while the other three (Hamilton Southeastern, Roncalli, Brownsburg) finished with a combined .733 winning percentage.

“We knew we had good pieces at the beginning of the year. Our schedule’s pretty grueling, so you know you’re going to have some bumps along the way,” Hahn said. “You have to find what your weaknesses are and improve them, and get your strengths even stronger to come out and play your best basketball at the right time.”

Center Grove has a top-level collegiate recruit of its own in 6-9 junior Trayce Jackson-Davis, who averages 21.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest.

“He gets better every single day. That’s how he’s been since his freshman year,” Hahn said. “He’s grown, his maturity level and approach to the game’s changed. He works at all parts of his game to improve our team.”

Jackson-Davis had the shot of the year in the Indy metro, as his full-court heave against Lawrence North found the bottom of the net at the buzzer in a 48-45 victory.

“He rebounded it, threw it, and it’s just one of those where you never know,” Hahn said. “Of course we rushed the court, and I might’ve been the first guy in the dogpile. It was one of those games you’ll never forget.”

If opponents focus too much on Jackson-Davis, seniors Nate McClain (9.2 ppg) and Joey Klaasen (7.4 ppg), and juniors Spencer Piercefield (11.7 ppg) and Ben Nicoson (4.0 ppg), can all drill the open shot or drive to the basket.

To come out of the weekend, the Trojans must continue their excellence on defense. They’ve allowed 50.6 points per game for the season, and just 46.0 in their three sectional wins.

“We’ve tried to lock in on what strength they have that we’re going to take away. Sometimes it’s a 3-point shooter, sometimes it’s at the basket, sometimes it’s the whole system of how you guard,” Hahn said. “Our guys have embraced that, taking it as a challenge to learn and go do it.”

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