For the Daily Reporter
NEW PALESTINE — For New Palestine High School girls basketball coach Brian Kehrt, Thursday night’s game against rival Triton Central came down to one thing — his team’s performance.
“We told the girls before the game that we were not playing the team in green, but that it was about us. This is the one you worry about. Triton Central circles this one on the calendar and you hope your kids can just match their intensity,” Kehrt said.
Did they ever, as New Palestine opened the game with four 3-pointers en route to a 46-29 victory. With the win, the Dragons improved to 12-5 on the season heading into a crucial road test against potential sectional foe Whiteland. Triton Central dropped to 11-6 and had a five-game winning streak snapped.
New Palestine senior Haley Stratman got the Dragons going early, drilling three of her four 3-pointers in the first quarter as New Palestine opened an 18-13 lead.
Both teams struggled to find the basket in the second quarter, combining for just seven points as New Palestine settled for a 24-14 halftime advantage.
“We didn’t do anything special at the half. We reminded the girls it was about us, and we had to do a better job on the offensive end. We had a huge third quarter and were able to shut them down defensively,” Kehrt said.
That “huge third quarter” was a direct result of the defensive effort New Palestine put forth, holding Triton Central to just five points, while junior Raegan McMurray made the Tigers pay on the offensive end, scoring eight of her 16 points in the frame.
“It’s not talked about often, but in Class 4A, we have the third-best defensive average in the state. We hope to use our defense as a way to get us through games,” Kehrt said.
As for McMurray’s performance, Kehrt was all smiles.
“She is a tough guard and is tough to defend. She stepped up for us in that quarter,” he said.
In addition to McMurray’s output, New Palestine got 12 out of Stratman, while Carley Hackler chipped in with six. Triton Central was led by Tess Mullen and Allison Baker, who each scored eight in the loss.
“It was a good team win, and a great, team effort. I love the way we are playing right now,” said Kehrt, who watched his team win its fourth in a row and sixth in its past seven.
“It’s hard to believe we have one home game left with these seniors. We have some tough games ahead of us, but if we continue to play well and use our defense, we will be fine. We are on a bit of a run, and I hope we can continue it,” Kehrt said.