ROYERTON — For the second straight conference game, the young New Palestine Dragons went toe-to-toe with one of the Hoosier Heritage Conference’s co-leaders.
Despite being within two possessions much of the game, the Dragons were unable to overtake Delta, as the host Eagles pulled away late to a 46-35 victory.
Delta took the lead for good early in the second quarter. While its lead never extended beyond six until the late stages of the fourth when New Palestine was fouling intentionally, the Dragons’ foul shooting made a comeback difficult. New Palestine hit 9 of 23 from the line, including 4 of 13 in the second half.
“You can’t fault the kids’ effort,” New Palestine head coach Trent Whitaker said. “They played their tails off. It’s a long bus ride, and this is a difficult environment to play in, but you’ve got to overcome that. It starts with a 15-foot shot when nobody’s guarding you. We knock down several of those, it’s a different story.
“Our conference is too good to shoot 35 percent from the line and win basketball games.”
NP also struggled to hit from the field, shooting 11 of 47 from the floor, but they held Delta to 14 of 37 shooting.
Defensively, the Dragons held Delta’s Tanner Lambert — one of the HHC’s top scorers — to two points on a pair of late free throws, and four free throw attempts. Delta’s inside players did the bulk of the Eagles’ damage.
Senior Carter Anderson had 13 of his 17 points in the second half. Eagles forward Adam Haynes had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, hitting his average in both categories.
“He was our key,” Whitaker said of Lambert. “They go through him, and we did a nice job talking him through our zone, getting to him early when he catches, and making sure we kept him in front of us. A third of their points were from the free-throw line.”
Delta was 17 of 24 from the stripe, including 10 of 15 in the final quarter. Anderson was key for the Eagles late. His three-point play late in the third gave Delta a five-point edge and some breathing room going into the fourth.
New Palestine’s Gavin Hausz hit an early 3-pointer and Matthew True attacked the rim to cut the deficit to 34-31 in the final three minutes. Anderson scored in the post to give the Eagles a five-point edge.
After New Palestine’s Sam Voelz split two free throws on a third-chance rebound, Lambert hit two shots to put the Eagles up six. At that point, Gavin Hausz forced a loose ball, but as he was diving for it, Delta was granted a timeout with a minute to go.
Anderson and Haynes put the game away with 6 of 8 foul shooting the remainder of the way.
Voelz was key on defense and had a career-high nine boards, including five of the Dragons’ 14 offensive rebounds.
“He was a spark. He did a nice job. He did a really good job guarding their big guys in the post,” Whitaker said. “I told the kids, they gave us everything they had. As a coach, that’s everything you can ask for.”
True led the Dragons with 12 points. True also had six boards. Jalen Qualkinbush had nine points. Maximus Gizzi added five points, six rebounds and four assists.
New Palestine fell to 1-8 with the loss and 0-3 in HHC play, while Delta improved to 7-2 and remained tied with Pendleton Heights for the HHC lead at 2-0. The young Dragons – who start a freshman and two sophomores – are looking to turn their solid efforts into wins, starting with a Saturday home game against Marshall.