NEW PALESTINE — The Greenfield-Central Cougars struggled to find their shots early, but once they did, New Palestine had few answers.
Trailing 23-20 at halftime, the Cougars broke free in the third quarter with a decisive 9-0 run Friday night to beat Hoosier Heritage Conference rival New Palestine 54-38.
Madison Wise scored a game-high 19 points, and Savannah Girolami finished with 12, as the Cougars nearly had four players in double figures behind a 48-percent shooting second half.
“We settled for a lot of jump shots in the first half, and shots we normally hit, but we just didn’t hit them,” Greenfield-Central head coach Doug Laker said. “I thought we attacked the rim a little bit better in the second half and were more aggressive. … We’re better when we get in transition.”
The host Dragons (5-4, 2-2 HHC) slowed the Cougars (6-3, 2-0 HHC) in the first half with their zone defense, resulting in a 33 percent shooting clip, but the tables turned quickly in the final 16 minutes.
Greenfield-Central pulled ahead 40-28 entering the fourth quarter and put together an 11-1 run to lead by 14 points while getting contributions from all over the floor.
Girolami tied the game at 25 with 7 minutes and 11 seconds remaining in the third quarter, and a penetration layup by the senior guard capped their 9-0 swing. New Palestine, which was a perfect 6-0 at home prior to the game, cut the deficit to 31-27 with 3:41 left in the quarter, but a clutch 3-pointer from Katie Helgason kept them at bay.
Helgason had a team-high seven rebounds and nine points with all them dropping through in the second half.
Jessica Farrell muscled inside for nine points and grabbed six rebounds.
“We heard all week long that we’re just Madison Wise and that’s the only thing we got,” said Laker, whose team snapped a two-game losing streak. “It takes a whole program. … I think the better program won today.
“We’re not just Madison Wise. We are Greenfield-Central. We’re a program, and we just kicked their rear ends.”
Wise had nine points in the first half and added another 10 in the second, shooting 7 of 17 from the field.
With the game still in question, Wise scored five points late in the third quarter. In the fourth, she dished out a pair of assists to Girolami in transition for a layup and Helgason on the wing for another 3-pointer to counter an 8-0 run by New Palestine.
Those buckets put the Cougars ahead 47-36.
“I would love to say their entire program is better than us, but they have Madison Wise, and what we did defensively obviously opened up things for their other girls,” New Palestine coach Brian Kehrt said. “We took chances with other people, and they hit shots. If they didn’t have Madison, we would be playing man-to-man. She’s that good of a player for them. She makes a coach look pretty good.”
The Dragons, which were 13-13 in the all-time series against Greenfield-Central at home, shot 13 percent in the second half after hitting 46 percent in the first. Greenfield leads the series 31-25.
Raegan McMurray led the Dragons with 17 points.