For the Daily Reporter
YORKTOWN — From the opening tip, the New Palestine Dragons dialed in their defense, and turned steals into hoops to start the game.
Then, the 3-point barrage began. By the time the smoke cleared, the Dragons had built a 20-point lead, sending them to a 56-40 road victory at Yorktown.
The Dragons improved to 9-6, and moved to second place in the Hoosier Heritage Conference with a 3-1 league record.
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The Dragons’ victories have all come in games where they’ve held opponents to fewer than 50 points.
“We focus a lot on defense,” New Palestine coach Trent Whitaker said. “Our kids are buying into the fact that we’re 9-1 when giving up less than 50 points. That’s a team that’s running through some people, so we got after them, which is very nice to see. We don’t get a lot of fast-break layups, and tonight, we did.”
Matthew True hit five 3-pointers and scored 17 first-half points, all coming in a run that saw New Palestine build a 32-8 lead.
The Dragons opened the game with an 18-3 run, keyed by back-to-back steals-and-layups to start, followed by consecutive 3-pointers from Dylan Romine, Gavin Hausz and True. New Palestine hit 9 of 13 in the opening quarter and raced out to a 24-6 lead after the first stop, before extending it in the second.
“We definitely hit shots early,” Whitaker said. “That first quarter is probably the best we’ve played offensively all year. It started on the defensive end. We got a couple of paint touches early — not as many as I wanted, but we got a few. Jack (Walker) did a nice job of kicking out and finding True and Hausz for threes.”
Hausz scored 15 points — his seventh straight double-figure game. Romine added 10.
Playing their fourth game without leading scorer and rebounder Maximus Gizzi, the Dragons were also even further shorthanded Friday. Center Kyle King was also unavailable due to injury, giving New Palestine seven healthy varsity players.
That has allowed others opportunities to step into — and thrive in — expanded roles. Maxen Hook had six points and eight rebounds — tying Romine for the team lead in rebounds. Eric Roudebush and Walker had four rebounds each.
“Roudebush stepped in and did a nice job,” Whitaker said. “What I was most impressed with was his defense and his positioning. Hook is now in a spot where he’s not used to — he has to run the point. We had guys in different spots and they responded.”
The Dragons, who have now won five of their last six, return to the court Saturday at home against Perry Meridian.