INDIANAPOLIS — It took eight minutes for New Palestine to catch fire. But once the second quarter hit, the Dragons sprinted past Sectional 27 opponent Indianapolis Marshall, 68-50, on Tuesday.
Two Dragons were imperative to New Palestine’s victory, and senior Jalen Qualkinbush left everything on the court with 23 points.
“I didn’t want it to be over, so I gave it my all,” he said.
Qualkinbush went from a scoreless first quarter to scoring the Dragon’s first five second-quarter points on his way to a 10-point half. He found shot after shot in the lane, and when they didn’t fall, he drew the foul.
“Jalen gave us a lot of leadership tonight,” New Pal head coach Trent Whitaker said. “He put us on his back and was making nice plays for us.”
He went 4-for-4, going 2-for-3 from the free-throw line in the quarter. The 10-all tie after the first quarter was a distant afterthought by the time halftime came.
New Palestine’s nine-point streak gave the Dragons the edge for the rest of the game. Their biggest lead was 10 points in the half, and they went to the locker room with a 29-21 advantage.
Qualkinbush and sophomore Matthew True, who had 24 points, led the team throughout the final 16 minutes. Qualkinbush stayed hot coming out of the half, scoring New Palestine’s first seven points with two layups and a 3-pointer.
The Patriots hit a buzzer-beating three to finish the third, shortening New Palestine’s lead to 43-32. But True would keep the fire burning in the fourth quarter.
He hit his first three a minute into the quarter. Two 3-pointers and a layup later, he had extended New Palestine’s lead to 18 points, 58-40. Qualkinbush found two more paint shots and True finished the scoring, draining four free throws.
“Matthew (True) came in and started hitting threes,” Whitaker said. “From that point on, we relaxed a little and hit free throws down the stretch.”
The two teams had played earlier in the year with New Palestine coming out on top by 30 points.
“Coming out and playing a team you beat by 30 is difficult to do,” Whitaker said. “Kids sometimes don’t realize that they’ve played 17 more games since we played them
“We got punched in the mouth early, then in the second quarter we changed the speed a little and got them out of their routine.”
The Dragon’s 68 points was about 15 more than their season average. Qualkinbush and True each scored about 13 more than their season averages.
“You win by 18, but sometimes it felt like a five-point game,” Whitaker said. “Give Marshall credit, they battled and came to play.”
New Palestine heads to the sectional semifinal for the first time since the 2014-15 season. They face Bishop Chatard (3-19) at Brebeuf Jesuit High School Friday at 6 p.m.
“I’m ready to win and move on to the championship,” Qualkinbush said. “We just got to play like we did tonight – with a little more defense – but other than that, we think we can pull off the win.”