Center Grove Sectional Championship [Photographer / Mason Lee & Provided]

Center Grove Ends Winter Season and Begins Spring Season

Center Grove Basketball Seniors Leave Their Mark

The Center Grove High School (CGHS) boys basketball team used their rough start to the 2023-2024 season to fuel their resolve for the rest of the season. That start included losses in three of their first six games.

“Each year I come up with a season motto for our team,” said CGHS Head Coach Zach Hahn. “I spend a lot of time thinking about this and how it will be the catalyst for team success. Our motto this year was ‘Care, Commit, Trust.’ Even with a veteran group, it took a while to establish that culture.”

Just six games into the season, the Trojans were already at a crossroads.

“No season is smooth and sometimes tough times create tough people,” said Hahn. “Our team rebounded with great resiliency. Most programs would crumble, but our players came together and sacrificed the ‘me’ for the ‘we’ in team success.”

Not only did CGHS turn it around, but the Trojans also finished the season with a 21-5 record and ranked number nine in the final Class 4A Associated Press poll.

“We were able to win 16 consecutive games,” said Hahn. “Winning a championship in Indiana high school basketball is never easy. This group was able to win three with the county, sectional and regional. They had the second-best two-year 4A record at 43-8. They cemented their legacy in the Center Grove basketball program.”

Center Grove Semi-State Championship

The Trojans were led by eight senior players: Jalen Bundy, Joey Schmitz, Will Spellman, Dylan Meador, Peyton Byrd, Ben Chestnut, Carson Newell, Grant Long, and 6-foot, 10-inch junior newcomer Michael Ephraim, aka Big Mike.

Bundy ended his career with the third-most career assists at CGHS.

“[Bundy is an] ultimate team guy,” said Hahn. “[He] could have easily scored 15 points per game but loved making plays for others – has multiple college offers and will be choosing in the coming weeks.”

Schmitz was CGHS’s sharpshooter, setting the school record for the most made threes in a game with nine, and the most made threes in a season with 83.

“Best shooting display I’ve ever seen, at any level,” said Hahn. “He shot over 54% from three. Joey should have been an Indiana all-star. He was selected as all-state and will get his picture put in the CG Hall of Fame. Joey is committed to Rose-Hulman.”

Spellman was an all-around contributor as a scorer, rebounder and defender.

“Will was a huge reason our team had success,” said Hahn. “Him getting injured in the regional really hurt our team’s chances at a semi-state championship. His understanding of the game as a post player with spacing, angles and screening is as high of an IQ as I have seen. He was a relentless worker, often shooting at six in the morning before school started. Will is committed to Franklin College.”

Byrd improved his game immensely and still has a high ceiling for future growth.

“Peyton developed into a defensive stopper and took it as a challenge to guard the opposing team’s best player,” said Hahn. “I don’t know that I have seen a player improve as much as he did from one year to the next. His best basketball is yet to come and he will be playing at Indiana Wesleyan.”

The Trojans received great energy from Meador, Chestnut, Long and Newell.

“Dylan was one of our most consistent players and gave us a ton of energy off the bench,” said Hahn. “He shot 51% from three. Ben worked hard on his body and shooting the basketball. He was a big reason we had versatility on the offensive and defensive end. His 8 points against Franklin in the regional were huge. He will continue his basketball career at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Grant was as special of a player as I have ever coached – ultimate team player. Carson was injured but became an assistant coach on the bench – was monumental in gauging the energy of our team and individual players. He wants to coach basketball.”

Big Mike was a welcome addition to the program.

“Michael’s growth and improvement from October to March was second to none,” said Hahn. “He started becoming a double-double machine and really changed the game on the defensive end. His injury at the end of the season really hurt his production and our team. He showed great toughness playing through it. He is a fantastic teammate, hardworking and humble. Michael will have the opportunity to play college basketball after his senior season.”

Schmitz earned first-team, large-school all-state honors, and first-team academic all-state. Bundy was named honorable-mention, large-school all-state, and Spellman was honorable-mention academic all-state.

Hahn became CGHS’s most successful boys basketball coach this season, achieving many milestones in just his 10th year at the helm. Hahn has the most CGHS wins (157), sectionals (5) and regionals (2), is tied for the most county championships (6), and is the only CGHS coach to have four seasons with 20 or more wins.

Baseball Wins County for Fourth Year in a Row

The Center Grove baseball program is coming off its best finish in school history as the Class 4A state runner-up in 2023. With the loss of many talented players through graduation, the expectations remain high for the 2024 team, as the team sets its sights on winning five championships: county, sectional, regional, semi-state and state. The Trojans team achieved its first goal of the season, defending its Johnson County title for the fourth year in a row, beating Franklin in the finals 5-1 and shutting out Indian Creek in the semifinals 9-0.

cg baseball“Being county champs for four consecutive years is an incredible achievement,” said CGHS senior shortstop Noah Coy. “It speaks volumes about the dedication and talent of our team over the years. It’s been an honor to be a part of such a successful program, and I know that the program’s success is not slowing down any time soon.”

“Winning the county tournament was great,” said CGHS Head Coach Keith Hatfield. “We have a lot of new faces, so getting that first trophy out of the way was good for them.”

Coy, a Notre Dame commit, said the Trojans have more goals to achieve this season.

“Winning the county was our first major goal, and it feels great to accomplish that,” said Coy. We’re not satisfied yet. Our sights are set on bigger goals, like making a deep run in the state playoffs and ultimately competing for a state championship. Before we get there, our plan as a team is to cherish every single opportunity to get better. There are still many areas that we can build on, and we want to be playing our best baseball at the end of May.”

Before the season started, high school baseball prognosticators said CGHS’s strengths would be athleticism, defense and pitching. As such, CGHS’s offense was in question.

“Going into the season, I was concerned about scoring runs,” said Hatfield. “The guys have shown me a lot of toughness at the plate. It is great to see all of their hard work from January and February showing through in the season.”

Through the first 10 games of the season, the Trojans were averaging 10 runs and 10 hits per game. With that kind of production, CGHS can win a lot of games.

“Everyone has really bought into their roles and is contributing in their own way to help us win games,” said Coy. “The camaraderie and chemistry among all the players is very strong and it’s a big reason for our success. Lots of new faces and younger guys have taken bigger roles and elevated us to an elite-level team.”

cg baseball“We still have a lot of season left,” said Hatfield. “I’m really excited to see how they evolve through the meat of our schedule.”

CGHS began the season ranked number four in the 4A coaches’ poll, but jumped to number one in the state after two weeks into the season. The Trojans have a very challenging schedule in May leading up to the state tournament. Coy said the team will continue to work hard and improve daily to prepare themselves for the postseason.

“It’s been a pleasure taking on a leadership role with this team,” said Coy. “Seeing the dedication and drive of our younger players who are always eager to improve is awesome. Our coaching staff pushes us every day to never be satisfied, and to always strive for more, and that mindset has been instrumental in our success. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of such a motivated and determined group.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Center Grove Stories

Welcome Back!

Login to your account below

Retrieve your password

Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.

Send me your media kit!

hbspt.forms.create({ portalId: "6486003", formId: "5ee2abaf-81d9-48a9-a10d-de06becaa6db" });