INDIANAPOLIS — Playing a team with just two wins at the end of the season can be extremely difficult. Class 4A New Palestine learned that the hard way Wednesday night at Lawrence Central.
Battling an inspired 4A Bears squad playing on senior night, the Dragons overcame a sloppy first half and used 12 points and five rebounds from senior forward Katlyn Keele to secure a 46-37 win in their regular-season finale.
“You can’t look at the two wins because they might have the toughest schedule in the state,” New Palestine head coach Brian Kehrt said. “I would like to see us get a little better start, but we always seem to battle back.”
New Palestine (16-6) finished its season winners of four-straight and accumulated the highest win total in 12 seasons for the program.
The Dragons also won seven of their past eight contests and will enter the postseason with momentum.
New Palestine, which finished third in the Hoosier Heritage Conference (5-2) this season, despite double-digit turnovers in the first half, used a 3-pointer from senior guard Haley Stratman with just seconds left on the clock to take a 25-22 advantage at the break.
The Dragons outscored the Bears 11-3 in the second quarter after allowing Lawrence Central to shoot 62 percent (8 of 13) in the opening quarter.
“They had some girls hit some shots we would like them to take most nights,” Kehrt said.
The Dragons were 8-for-17 from the field in the first half and hit four threes. However, 10 New Palestine turnovers kept the Bears in the game.
Senior guard Natalie Kehrt gave the Dragons their biggest lead of the game, 37-30, to that point with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter after a driving layup on the right side.
From there, New Palestine limited the Bears to seven points and hit just enough free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Lawrence Central (2-18) was led in scoring by senior forward Yasmene Leath with 10 points.
For the game, the Dragons shot 47 percent from the field and 12-for-14 from the charity stripe. The Bears finished at 33 percent for the game.
New Palestine now shifts its focus to Whiteland (12-9), where a rematch looms Wednesday in the Center Grove Sectional. The Warriors beat the Dragons 51-44 on Jan. 16, which also happens to be the last time the team lost.
“We started poorly against them (Whiteland) and were down 20-5,” Kehrt said. “We came back and took the lead in the fourth quarter but couldn’t quite hold on. Hopefully we learned our lesson.
“Sixteen wins in special, but I don’t want to be done and neither do they.”