GREENFIELD — Gazing over the stat sheet after Greenfield-Central’s win against New Palestine on Friday night, Cougars’ head coach Michael Lewis could only sing praise.
It wasn’t perfect, or even pretty at times, but Lewis and Greenfield-Central will take it — especially when the team’s leading scorer notches just one field goal.
Behind a balanced attack, the Cougars jumped out to a 14-6 first-quarter lead and would not let up on way to a 52-40 win against its county and conference foe on the opening night of Hoosier Heritage Conference boys’ basketball.
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Junior Will O’Connor, who came in scoring just more than 22 points per game this season, was held to about half his average (nine points), but Greenfield-Central received double-digit efforts from senior guards Josh Mundell and Drey Jameson in the win.
Mundell matched his career high with 12 points, including a hot-shooting first quarter, while Jameson finished with 11. Five other Cougars also scored at least two points and six total players hit at least one three.
“Tonight, there was no doubt about it, it was definitely a team win,” Lewis said. “And it all started on the defensive end. We kept them off the glass and, collectively, we communicated much better on that end.
“Offensively, we still have a ways to go but more kids looked to make plays tonight. They weren’t so stagnant with the ball.”
New Palestine freshman Maximus Gizzi, who entered the game averaging 11.7 points per game, finished with 10 points and was a big concern for Lewis on Friday. Also for the Dragons, sophomore guard Matthew True added 12 points and Jalen Qualkinbush, the team’s leading scorer, contributed 11 in a balanced effort, as well.
“We wanted to do our best to keep (Maximus) Gizzi out of the paint,” Lewis said. “He is a fearless player. And obviously we wanted to cover their shooters.”
Last season, Greenfield-Central (2-2, 1-0 Hoosier Heritage Conference) won 53-38. Friday’s meeting was the 50th between the schools, and the Cougars lead the overall series 27-23. The Dragons (1-3, 0-1 HHC) had won 14 of the last 17 meetings.
Two 3s and an assist from Mundell helped Greenfield-Central take a comfortable lead after one quarter. The Cougars extended it to 21-16 at the break despite being outscored by the Dragons 10-7 in the second quarter.
After halftime, O’Connor would hit his first three — and only field goal — of the game to spark a Cougars’ rally. Leading 28-26, Greenfield-Central finished the quarter on 9-2 run. From there, the Cougars hit just enough free throws down the stretch to keep New Palestine at a distance.
Mundell and Jameson each had six at halftime for Greenfield-Central, while Gizzi and True had eight and five points, respectively.
Greenfield-Central finished the first half 8 of 17 from the field, while New Palestine was 5-for-13. For the game, the Cougars shot 12 of 15 from the free throw line. The Dragons were 9-for-13.
Qualkinbush came in leading the Dragons with 14.1 ppg, while Gizzi leads the team with 5.3 rebounds per game.
Greenfield-Central will play again Wednesday at Broad Ripple. New Palestine remains on the road and travels to Westfield tonight.