For The Daily Reporter
PENDLETON — When one thinks of Greenfield Central’s rivals, Pendleton Heights often is overlooked. But from the looks of Friday night’s game, it was certainly a meeting Greenfield-Central coach Doug Laker relishes.
After his team sealed a 48-42 win to push its record to 3-0 and garner its first win within the Hoosier Heritage Conference, he turned to the person sitting in the first row behind him and gave him an emotional high-five.
“I think the better program won tonight,” Laker said. “It’s nothing against Pendleton, I’m just really proud of what we’ve been building here to be able to get a win like this. To have a young team like this be able to perform at this level is great.”
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Despite Pendleton’s 0-3 record coming into the game, they never let Greenfield-Central take total control of the game. The Cougars had leads of seven, eight, eight and nine in each quarter, respectively, but with 30 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter, their lead was only 45-42.
“We were only two baskets and a stop away from getting the victory tonight,” first-year Pendleton Heights coach Chad Cook stated afterwards.
Despite Pendleton’s persistent effort, they were only able to lead for a brief portion at the beginning of the second quarter. Every other time the Arabians looked to storm ahead, Greenfield-Central star junior forward Madison Wise had an answer.
Wise, who would finish with 24 points and nine rebounds, actually scored under her season average of 29 points per game, but her ability was the difference in this game.
“To have someone who is 6 feet tall and can handle the ball is just an extreme asset,” Laker said in reference to Wise. “She’s a great player and a great person.”
Cook knew Wise had disrupted the game from the start.
“She drew some fouls on us early that really affected us late in the game,” the coach said.
Wise wasn’t the only player who contributed to the Cougar win however. Junior point guard Katie Helgason carried the team at the beginning of the fourth quarter to end one of Pendleton’s many runs.
With the Cougars up only two points, Helgason began the final quarter with two quick layups and two tough rebounds on the defensive end.
And not to be outdone with Pendleton looking, yet again, to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, Cougar senior Savannah Girolami broke the Arabian press for a layup. She rebounded the ensuing Arabian missed shot to seal the game for the Cougars.
“We needed to win this game tonight,” Laker said as he looked forward to tonight’s matchup with No. 10 ranked North Central.
As for Pendleton, they hope to get their first win of the season tonight against Frankton.
“Once we get that first win, I really think we can get rolling,” said Cook.