NEW PALESTINE — The New Palestine Dragons girls basketball team opened the season with a hard-fought victory over the visiting Connersvile Spartans on Thursday night, winning on opening night 52-48.

During the game, the biggest lead for either team was five points, and for first-year coach Sarah Gizzi, the competitiveness of the game was a bit of a surprise.

“Based on the tape on them we had from last year, Connersville has improved a lot,” Gizzi said. “But we came out and did what we needed to do to win.”

At the half, the Dragons had a 19-18 lead as both teams felt out the other for the optimum plan of attack. For the Spartans, it seemed to rely heavily on junior guard Marley Smith, who scored 18 of her team’s first 26 points.

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From that point in the middle of the third quarter, the Dragons employed a face-guarding system against Smith, who would only score four more points the rest of the game.

After the half, the Dragons made it a point to attack the Spartans’ zone defense on the interior. In the third quarter, Dragons junior forwards Leah Seib and Katelyn Herron began to impose their will.

Seib, who only had two points in the first half scored eight points in the third quarter to keep the Dragons in control despite the game remaining close throughout.

Seib would finish with 16 points and seven rebounds while shooting 8-for-10 from the free-throw line. Herron also added nine points on the interior.

“It’s no secret we’ve got talented front-court players,” Gizzi said. “I think in the first half we weren’t really getting them the ball like we should have, and not only did going to the rim get us some points, but I think we rebound better when we focus on that.”

Winning the opening game of the season is certainly better than the alternative, but for Gizzi, the biggest takeaway from tonight’s game was areas of improvement to work on.

“Overall I thought we played well, especially in the second half,” said Gizzi. “But the game definitely showed us areas we need to focus on going forward.”

The Dragons next take the court next on Tuesday night as they travel to Greenwood.

Scoreline

New Palestine 52, Connersville 48

CHS;8;10;14;16;—;48

NP;8;11;16;17;—;52

CONNERSVILLE (0-1): Smith 8 3-4 22, Thompson 2 2-2 8, Beckman 1 2-2 4, Griffin 2 0-0 4, Groce 1 2-4 4, Bostwick 1 0-2 3, Bottomley 0 2-2 2, Gregory 0 1-2 1. Totals: 15 12-18 48.

NEW PALESTINE (1-0): Seib 3 8-10 16, Harrison 3 1-2 9, Jolly 2 5-7 9, Herron 4 1-5 9, Newcomb 2 0-0 5, Biddle 1 0-0 2, Jones 1 0-0 2. Totals: 16 15-24 52.

3-pointers: NP 3 (Harrison 2, Newcomb 1), CHS 7 (Smith 4, Thompson 2, Bostwick 1).

Rebounds: NP 15 (Seib 7, Adams, Herron 2, Biddle, Grable, Harrison, Jolly 1), CHS 14 (Gregory 8, Bottomley, Smith 2, Beckman, Bostwick 1).