PENDLETON — A strong defensive effort in the first half kept Greenfield-Central one step ahead of a sharp-shooting Pendleton Heights squad Friday night in Hoosier Heritage Conference action.
Winners of five-straight contests entering Friday’s battle with the Cougars, the Arabians could not continue their hot play as Greenfield-Central limited the home team to just 16 first-half points en route to a 63-50 win.
Senior guard Blake Robertson caught fire in the third quarter, drilling all three of his 3-point attempts, and the Cougars hit just enough free throws down the stretch to seal the conference road win. Robertson finished with 13 points.
Teammate Tate Hall, a senior forward, finished with a game-high 23 points and 13 rebounds.
“We got ourselves off to a good start and were able to lock down defensively,” Cougars head coach Michael Lewis said. “Our kids were engaged in the scouting report, and I thought they finished possessions by rebounding the basketball.
“Tate has been on a tear the last four games. Blake had an awesome second half.”
Pendleton Heights junior guard Mark Albers, who is averaging 21.5 points per game this season, hit three 3-point field goals to boost his tally to 70 for the season. However, it was not enough as he only connected on 3 of 10 from deep to finished with 17 points.
Lewis acknowledged senior Chandler Bean for setting the tone on the defensive end for the Cougars (12-4, 4-2 HHC), especially in the first half.
“The straw the stirred the drink for us tonight was Chandler Bean,” Lewis said. “He made great decisions with the basketball and was our emotional leader defensively.”
Bean finished with eight points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. He scored five of those at the end of the first quarter to give Greenfield-Central a slim 9-8 advantage after one.
Then the Cougars took it up a notch.
With the scored deadlocked at 13-all after a Hall basket and the foul, Greenfield-Central would close the half on an 8-3 run to take a 21-16 lead into the break.
The Arabians (10-6, 3-2 HHC) shot just 33 percent (6-for-18) in the first half and turned the ball over seven times.
A tight third quarter (17-14) saw Greenfield-Central take an eight-point lead into the final stanza. From there, Hall, Robertson and the supporting cast played with enough poise to keep Pendleton Heights at a distance, increasing their lead to over 10 points with just under three minutes to play.
Starters Kirill Schoellman and Drey Jameson each contributed eight points in the win for the Cougars, who have now won three-straight games.
As a team, Greenfield-Central shot 46 percent from the field Friday while the Arabians finished at 41 percent. The Cougars, however, hit 20 of 24 free throws that eventually made a difference in the game.
“To beat good teams, especially on the road, you have to take and connect on free throws,” Lewis said.
Senior guard Kenton Dunham led the Arabians with 20 points.
Greenfield-Central returns to action tonight at home against county rival Eastern Hancock. Pendleton Heights will stay at home today for a contest against Pike.
In the junior varsity game, the Cougars fell 60-52.