Young Dragons stopped short

PENDLETON — The young New Palestine Dragons went on the road for another stern Hoosier Heritage Conference test at Pendleton Heights on Friday night. Although the Dragons came up short once again, they continue to play hard and move toward a brighter future.

Senior Mark Albers poured in 27 points and sophomore Eli Pancol grabbed 17 rebounds as the Arabians used a 16-4 run in the second and third quarter to blow open a tight contest, handing the Dragons a 64-50 defeat.

New Palestine drops to 2-9 overall and 0-4 in the conference, while Pendleton Heights improves to 9-3 and 2-0.

The Dragons fell behind by 10 late in the first quarter but battled back. They closed to within four at 26-22 on a three-point shot from sophomore Matthew True, but Pendleton Heights scored the last four points of the half and, after freshman Maximus Gizzi opened the third quarter with a layup, scored eight straight to begin to pull away.

Pancol’s rebounding total was part of a night that saw the Arabians control the boards by a 43-32 margin. The Dragons were led by senior Jalen Qualkinbush with six. Coach Trent Whitaker said the rebounding was a key to tonight’s loss.

“There were a lot of rebounds on the rim that we didn’t go get,” he said. “Their kids went after them and we didn’t put a body on them. If we do the little things, we’re going to be 42-30, rather than 34-38, or whatever it was.”

Whitaker went on to credit the Arabians and their defense. He said a tough conference road game like this is a good learning experience for his Dragons.

“Pendleton Heights is really a solid program,” he said. “That’s a great basketball team we played tonight. It’s a learning experience for all of us, me as a coach, the players, the seniors, everyone. In the second half, they locked us down more than they did in the first half, that’s where we needed to handle that pressure a little better than we did.”

The Dragons committed 15 turnovers on the night, nine in the second half, compared to the Arabians, who committed just six for the game.

New Palestine was led in scoring by True with 15 and Gizzi with 11 points. Gizzi also handed out three assists.

The Dragons will be on the road again Saturday evening with a 7:30 contest at Mooresville.