NEW PALESTINE — A season-best shooting performance from behind the arc could not help New Palestine snap a six-game losing streak Friday night in Hoosier Heritage Conference action against visiting Delta.
Despite trailing 52-39 at the end of the third quarter, the Eagles, led by 32 points from junior guard Tanner Lambert, would not go away and used overtime to steal a 77-74 win against the Dragons.
Sophomore Gavin Hausz, who scored 20 points in New Palestine’s last game, topped the 20-point mark again with 21 points, including five 3-point field goals. As a team, the Dragons hit 11 treys Friday. Its previous high was 10 in the season-opening win against Jennings County.
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However, poor free-throw shooting down the stretch and a career night by Lambert were too much to overcome.
“All week we talked about competing and tonight we competed,” New Palestine head coach Trent Whitaker said. “The kids need one (a win) right now. I’m not taking away anything from Delta, but we played hard.
“Lambert? LeBron James? Whatever his name is, wow. Honestly he hit some big shots. He came up big and hit some shots where we were right in his face.”
The Eagles outscored the Dragons 30-17 in the pivotal fourth quarter and tied the game at 69-all to end regulation after Lambert drilled his eighth 3-pointer of the game. Overall, the junior finished 9 of 11 from deep and 5-for-5 from the free throw line.
In overtime, with the score gridlocked at 74 apiece, Lambert would strike again. His final trey would be a dagger to the Dragons’ hearts, giving the Eagles a three-point lead with just over half a second left on the clock.
A desperation shot fell short at the buzzer as New Palestine ended a four-game win streak against Delta.
Playing without leading scorer Cody Long, a quick start helped the Dragons (2-8, 0-3 HHC) jump out to an early 8-0 lead after 3-pointers from Jalen Qualkinbush and Caleb VanderWal and a bucket from Hausz.
The run forced a Delta time out under two minutes into the game, and the Dragons would continue the pace and take a 20-12 first-quarter lead.
The Eagles (5-3, 2-0 HHC) were able to cut the deficit to three at halftime, but New Palestine came out firing once again, led by nine points from Hausz, to take the aforementioned lead heading into the fourth quarter. In both the first and third quarters, the team finished 4 of 7 from deep.
Qualkinbush paced the Dragons with 19 points while senior Duke Blackwell added 16 off the bench. According to Whitaker, every team member gave solid contributions in the loss. Eight of the nine players who recorded a minute scored a basket while eight more tallied at least one rebound.
“Every kid that played tonight played hard,” Whitaker said. “We can only play five but everyone gave great minutes tonight.”
Matt Norris, a 6-foot-8 senior center, added 12 points for the Eagles.
Long is still out due to an ankle injury suffered last weekend in the New Palestine Tournament.
Overall, the Dragons shot 22-for-50 from the field and 19 of 34 from the free throw line. Delta went 23-for-43 with 18 of 28 from the charity stripe.
The Eagles now own the overall series 11-10 (last 30 years). Last year, the Dragons won 61-48.
New Palestine will play again at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Indianapolis Marshall, while Delta returns home to face South Adams.