NEW PALESTINE — The New Palestine Dragons ran out to a 10-point lead by halftime against visiting Franklin Central on Tuesday night, but Sarah Gizzi was far from content.
Taking notice of several miscues, missed opportunities and sloppy play by her Dragons, the first-year head coach delivered a message at the break, and it sunk in deep.
Erupting for a 22-point third quarter, the host Dragons built a game-high 23-point lead in the second half en route to a decisive 56-40 victory.
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The win improved the Dragons season record to a flawless 4-0 behind a game-high 15 points from Leah Seib and 12 points by point guard Megan Jolly.
“She got us out of our own heads. We weren’t thinking and playing mindlessly (in the first half),” New Palestine junior guard Haley Harrison said. “She basically told us to get ourselves together, and we did, and then we were fine. What she did was what we needed.”
The Dragons, who entered the game at 3-0 — the first time they’ve achieved the feat since 1998-99 — led 24-14 at halftime, but they only shot 30 percent from the field.
They ramped it up in the third quarter, converting 53 percent of their field goals to go up 46-24 before the fourth.
“We weren’t super pleased with our first half play. We made a lot of silly mistakes and had some poor shot selection,” Gizzi said. “We don’t talk a lot about that because I like the girls to play free and loose, but that was probably the first time I ripped them for their shot selection.”
Their defense increased the pressure to force seven third-quarter turnovers by the Flashes (1-3), which opened up multiple transition buckets. Jolly flourished in the open court and in the Dragons’ half-court sets, dishing out seven assists, while shooting 6 of 9 from the floor.
“Our defense will give us some easy baskets and it does, so we have to keep that up. I definitely want our defense to dictate our offense,” Gizzi said. “It was definitely our best output because we upped the pressure.”
Seib was a consistent threat throughout the night. The 5-foot-11 junior guard shot 50 percent, hitting 6 of 12 field goal attempts, including a pair of 3-pointers. Seib was coming off a 17-point performance against Southport during the Dragons’ 47-44 road win on Saturday.
Eliza Adams added seven points off the bench as the Dragons’ reserve depth chipped in 17 points combined against Franklin Central. Harrison and Katelyn Herron both finished with six points apiece. Herron led the Dragons with nine rebounds.
“We wore them down. We kind of felt we could do that, if we kept the pressure on,” Gizzi said. “I do feel we have a pretty deep rotation. I don’t think it’s any secret we want to wear them down.”
Madison Potts led the Flashes with 14 points. The 6-1 senior center was 6-for-7 from the free-throw line, shooting 4-for-4 in the fourth quarter with most of the Dragons starters on the bench.
Franklin Central had beaten the Dragons twice last season. The Flashes won 51-50 during their 2016-17 regular-season meeting and 38-37 in the sectional semifinals.
No longer sectional foes, the Dragons scored some revenge, and now will sit idle until Nov. 25 when they host Perry Meridian.
New Palestine’s originally scheduled game against Indianapolis Scecina for this Saturday was rescheduled for Jan. 18. In the interim, the team will place an emphasis on preparation with 10 days of practice to resume their unbeaten trend.
“I know is sounds cliche, but I haven’t really thought about winning or losing. It’s really one game at a time and focusing on how we can improve,” Gizzi said. “We are really looking down the road and where we can be at by Christmas and conference and sectional time.
“We thought we could win these games. We went into each of these games thinking we were the better team, and when you play with that kind of confidence, it shows.”