NEW CASTLE — On the unluckiest of nights, the Greenfield-Central Cougars were good enough to make their own fortune on Friday the 13th.
Trailing in the fourth quarter after building an early double-digit lead, the Cougars hung on in the game’s final seconds to fend off Hoosier Heritage Conference rival New Castle 42-41 behind the heroics of their playmakers.
With the game on the line, Greenfield-Central senior Madison Wise, an Iowa State recruit, blocked a shot attempt in the lane by New Castle’s Cameron Tabor with 2.9 seconds remaining.
Prior to the game-saving block, Ball State recruit Katie Helgason buried a key 3-pointer with 2:38 left to put Greenfield-Central up 42-38.
The host Trojans had one last try at the win after Greenfield-Central went 0-for-3 from the free-throw line late, but they couldn’t convert on their final possession, falling for the third straight time against the Cougars.
“When you go up against a player like Wise, she’s pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime player. It’s hard to stop her,” New Castle head coach Corie West said. “Normally, she gets her points and rebounds, but the other players stepped up for them tonight. They’ve gotten very good at edging us by one or two points each year.”
Wise finished with a game-high 27 points, scoring 19 in the first half as the Cougars put together a 14-3 run in the second quarter.
A 3-pointer by Wise, who shot 11 of 18, pushed the Cougars lead to 24-14 midway through the second frame. Helgason had seven points and four rebounds, while Kate Real and Hannah Farrell both added three points each.
The Trojans (10-9, 3-3 HHC) muscled their way with a 6-2 run to cut the deficit to 28-20 at halftime and went on a 9-2 run in the third to take the lead 38-37.
The Cougars shot 55 percent from the field in the first half, but lost sight of the hoop in the second half, going 25 percent as the lead dwindled.
“Sometimes you have to be lucky to be good,” Greenfield-Central head coach Doug Laker said. “I feel better than when we left here last Saturday, that’s for sure.”
Losing to sixth-ranked Mason County last weekend at the New Castle Fieldhouse during the Indiana-Kentucky Challenge Cup 64-48, the defeat was the team’s first at the legendary venue after winning two straight to clinch the Hall of Fame Classic championship on Dec. 29.
In their fourth game in 16 days at New Castle, Greenfield-Central (12-8, 3-2 HHC) moved into third place in the conference, winning their fourth outing in five contests.
A pair of free throws by Wise, who was 3 of 5 from the charity stripe swung the lead back in Greenfield-Central’s favor 39-38 with 3:30 on the clock. A jumper by Tabor, who had 12 points, brought the Trojans within one point, 42-41.
Olivia Porter had a team-high 15 points for New Castle, going 9 of 10 from the free throw line. Her final two 15-footers put the Trojans in striking distance 42-39 before the Cougars blonde duo stood their ground.
“We got a W. I’ll never take back any W,” Laker said. “That’s big players making big plays. It’s really a simple game. Players have to make plays. You can draw it up all you want, but they have to make them.”