WHITELAND — Whiteland used an overwhelming advantage at the free-throw line to pull away from New Palestine at home for a hard-fought 68-63 win on Friday night.
The Warriors outscored New Palestine 20-1 from the charity stripe, a lion share of which came courtesy of Makenzie Blazek.
The 6-foot-3 Illinois recruit was nearly perfect from the stripe, going 10 of 12 on a night in which she became just the 15th player in the state’s history to reach 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career.
“I’m very excited about it. I had 17 the last game so I needed only three coming in, but I apparently couldn’t get a rebound in the first quarter,” said Blazek, who reached the milestone midway through the second quarter. “But really, I just want to win games. If (the milestone) happened, it happened. We’re now 12-1 and that’s all I can ask for.”
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The game was everything you’d expect from two teams that came into the game with a combined 21-2 record. The largest lead either team held through the first three quarters was five — twice by New Palestine — and it was just a one-point game entering the fourth.
Whiteland (12-1) led 44-43 to open the fourth but surrendered that quickly when Megan Jolly hit a bucket to put New Palestine ahead by one.
But the next six minutes belonged to the Warriors. With all of the attention on Blazek, Whiteland’s other players stepped up. Toni Joyner hit back-to-back baskets and Megan Harlow erupted for three 3-pointers to key a 17-4 run to put the Warriors ahead 61-49 with 2:36 to play.
However, New Palestine (10-2) wasn’t going to go away that quickly. The Dragons rediscovered their stroke and quickly ripped into the lead, pulling within four (67-63) on a Haley Harrison 3-pointer with 21 seconds to go.
But Blazek hit a free throw on the other end — her only point of the fourth — and Whiteland held over the final 20 seconds for the win.
The one statistic that stood out was the free-throw shooting where New Palestine was just 1-for-3 from the line compared to 20 of 30 for the Warriors. But New Palestine coach Sarah Gizzi wasn’t going to make excuses.
“We had scouted them several times and the refs hadn’t called it that close for them. We felt like if they called it close there would be a lot because (Blazek) is such a good player,” Gizzi said. “But we don’t like to make excuses. We were up four at halftime and we were in the game and that’s all we can ask for.”
Blazek finished the game with 30 points and Harlow added 19 as the pair accounted for more than 70 percent of their team’s scoring.
Leah Seib led four Dragons in double figures with 17 points. Jolly had 16, Harrison scored 13 and Katelyn Herron chipped in 10.
New Palestine competes in the Noblesville Tournament on Dec. 29.