NEW PALESTINE — Sometimes, the numbers don’t tell the true story of a team.
Such was the case with the New Palestine boys team, which fell to 3-9 overall and 0-4 in the Hoosier Heritage Conference following Friday’s 60-46 loss to rival Pendleton Heights (7-5, 1-1 HHC).
While the box score may show a loss and an 0-7 mark at home, first-year head coach Trent Whitaker said he sees the things nobody else does.
“The one thing about these kids is they won’t quit. The harder you work, the tougher it is to surrender, and that is the case with these kids. They’ll battle,” Whitaker said. “We are close, honestly close. If we play with that kind of focus and intensity earlier in the season, we have more than three wins. We are turning the corner.”
Turn the corner is what the Dragons almost did Friday.
After finding themselves behind 14 heading into the final quarter, New Palestine rallied back with a basket by Jaret Rightley and a 3-pointer by Duke Blackwell to cut the deficit to 49-41 with less than three minutes to go.
However, that would be as close as the Dragons would get, as Pendleton Heights’ Mark Albers scored four of his game-high 24 points down the stretch and the Arabians sealed the win from the free-throw line.
“I thought we played well. We battled back against a very good team. Pendleton Heights shoots the ball well, and we had great effort,” Whitaker said.
Early on, it appeared as if it would be a toss-up, as New Palestine executed its defensive game plan of taking away Pendleton Heights’ ability to knock down 3-pointers perfectly en route to an early lead.
However, a 3-pointer by Kenton Dunham gave the visiting Arabians a 14-12 lead, which they would not relinquish.
“We took away the 3-pointer early, and they hurt us with layups. We took away layups in the second half, and they hurt us with the three. It was a matter of us trying to pick our poison. We knew they could shoot well. They hit six 3-pointers in the second half, and we knew they could hit three’s,” Whitaker said.
In the loss, New Palestine was paced by Blackwell, who scored 13 points. Gavin Hausz chipped in with 10 points, marking the fifth straight game he has netted double figures.
Defensively, Whitaker singled out the efforts of Logan Duffy, who finished with six points.
“I thought Logan gave a great effort defensively and worked on 50-50 balls,” Whitaker said.