Annee’s offseason work paying dividends for Center Grove

Among the characteristics of Center Grove’s first semistate qualifier in 16 years is its absence of an established go-to player.

Audrey Annee, however, is trending toward becoming one.

The junior guard, the top scorer for the ninth-ranked Trojans at 13 points a game, leads one of the state’s more statistically balanced teams into Southport Fieldhouse on Saturday to face Class 4A No. 7 Bedford North Lawrence in a 10 a.m. semistate semifinal.

Annee’s spike in productivity and importance to her team has been crucial.

“We’ve been talking about it as coaches, the amount of work that Audrey has put in to put herself in position to have success,” Center Grove coach Kevin Stuckmeyer said. “And I think (assistant coach Shawn) Sanders actually said it … Audrey has taken as big a jump improvement-wise as anybody he’s seen in the years he’s done it, which is a pretty big compliment.”

Sanders was Center Grove’s head coach for eight seasons (2009-17).

Annee’s most clutch offering to date came late in the Trojans’ 45-43 overtime regional win over longtime nemesis Franklin in a game played, oddly enough, at Bedford North Lawrence.

Locked in a tense 41-41 tie with the Grizzly Cubs, Annee coldly drained a 3-point attempt launched a couple of steps right of the top of the key with 58.7 seconds remaining in the extra session.

Asked afterward if she would have done so last season in such a situation, Annee laughed.

“Um, probably not,” said Annee, who scored at a 6.2 clip a year ago. “I probably would have pulled the ball back and found our point guard. But seeing the ball go through the net that many times through the preseason helped me with that confidence.”

“It was just the motivation to be a better shooter because last season I was missing shots. I don’t think I had that confidence last year.”

The time Annee spent shooting baskets in the Center Grove gymnasium prior to the start of school each day in the offseason has paid dividends.

Her shooting percentages have increased from the floor (42.6 to 45.6) and behind the 3-point stripe (37.3 to 39.0) compared to the 2021-22 season. She’s also currently 40 of 56 (71.4%) from the foul line going into semistate; she made good on only 7 of 15 free throws last season.

Annee’s dependability includes scoring in double figures in 21 of her team’s 26 games this season, the high being 22 points in the Trojans’ 54-31 win over Plainfield in December.

“Audrey has changed us in the fact that she’s allowed others to kind of fill a role that they’re a little more comfortable with, and taken some pressure off them,” Stuckmeyer said.

Three Center Grove players are statistically log-jammed between senior wing Savanna Bischoff’s 5.6 points a game and her younger sister Lilly Bischoff’s 6.6 norm — junior guard Aubrie Booker (6.5), senior guard Ella Hobson (6.1) and junior post Rachel Wirts (5.1).

Annee hasn’t necessarily experienced a specific breakout game; it’s all been one continuous 26-game process.

“I would say it was just the progression over the season kind of helped me,” Annee said. “And in our (sectional championship) game against Mooresville, it just felt right.

“It’s always been my goal to be the No. 1 option on the team. But we’re so balanced. You never know who’s going to be the top scorer in each game.”