NEW PALESTINE — The New Palestine girls basketball team showed its age on opening night.
Coming out patient, composed and one year wiser, the Dragons made short work of the Connersville Spartans’ 2-3 zone to win 54-10 on Thursday night.
“I have an older group of girls that execute very well,” New Palestine head coach Brian Kehrt said. “They are very unselfish. When you have that and are willing to give up scoring for that extra pass, then you can have something special. We saw glimpses of that tonight.”
With four seniors and one junior in the starting lineup, the Dragons shot 57 percent from the field in the first half to build a 27-8 lead by halftime.
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Senior Haley Stratman hit the Dragons’ first shot, a deep 3-pointer from the corner, and she didn’t let up as the Spartans’ zone provided ample opportunities.
“That’s a defense you don’t see a lot, so it’s good that we’ve seen that now,” Kehrt said. “I feel like we were a pretty good offensive team against the man, so if we can knock down a shot or two, that will open up some things on the inside. Everyone played well.”
New Palestine’s leading scorer in 2014-15, Raegan McMurry (10.9 points per game), a junior, finished with seven points, but paced the team in assists, finding Stratman wide open on the perimeter.
Stratman scored a game-high 15 points on 5 of 9 shooting from beyond the arc. She had 12 points by halftime and buried another trey in the third quarter before New Palestine’s starters spent the final frame on the bench.
“In a 2-3 zone some times that takes some things (McMurry) does well away,” Kehrt said. “What she’s doing this year is really amazing, though. She’s distributing the ball really well and better than she ever has.
“We know she can score, and when we need someone to score, she will. But when she can pass the ball the way she is now, it makes us that much better.”
Senior Carly Hacker contributed eight points, and senior Natalie Kehrt chipped in five points.
New Palestine out rebounded Connersville 25-14 and held the Spartans scoreless in the third quarter after allowing only one point in the first.
The Dragons carried a 42-8 lead entering the fourth quarter and the bench scored 12 more points with junior Lillie Cain posting seven points and three rebounds.
The team shot 8 of 13 from 3-point range and was 8 of 12 from the foul line.
New Palestine, which went 12-12 last year, defeated Connersville 56-47 last February to finish the 2014-15 regular season. Trailing 21-20 at halftime of that game, they rallied with a 22-point fourth quarter.
This year, they held the Spartans to the lowest point total in recent program history.
“We know the next three games are going to be wars and played at a little bit different level,” Kehrt said. “Connersville has some young players, and we’ve been through that, so we know what it’s like, but we can’t be satisfied with this level. We have to be better.”
New Palestine travels to Greenwood Tuesday before going to Southport Fieldhouse to face the Cardinals on Nov. 14.