NEW PALESTINE — When the New Palestine Dragons found themselves in a second-half hole against Greenwood, the upperclassmen needed to seize the evening.
With the help of a sophomore, they did.
Michael Morris opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer that gave the Dragons a one-point lead, one they’d never relinquish in an eventual 53-50 victory over Greenwood.
Morris and fellow senior Justin Ikerd hit 3s and sophomore Ryan Curry hit both a 3-pointer and a three-shot free throw chance in a 12-point run. It put the Dragons up 43-33 to start the fourth quarter.
NP had to stave off a late run, but held the lead to bring about a Senior Night celebration.
The Dragons finished the regular season 15-5, their second straight 15-win season.
“It’s awesome to go out on top, finish our regular season careers with a win on our own floor and keep the momentum going into sectional. Hopefully we can go into sectional and get a win there,” Morris said.
The Dragons had struggled to hit earlier in the game, but drilled four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Morris hit another after Greenwood’s Jaren Hornbeak knocked one down to end the 12-point run. The Woodmen’s Shane Roberts knocked down back-to-back triples to lead an 8-0 run that cut the Dragons’ lead to 46-44, but Curry, Morris, Ikerd and Seth Cox went 7-of-10 from the line to put the game away.
“We hit some shots, we were going ‘here we go. Let’s finish the season on a high note,’” Morris said.
It was the final home game for Morris, Ikerd, Solomon Haynes and Sam Larrabee. Morris led the way with 15 points — scoring 10 after halftime — and spent much of the night chasing Hornbeak, Greenwood’s top scorer. He also had eight rebounds. Ikerd had a career-high seven assists to go along with four points. Haynes had seven points and two steals.
Two Dragon sophomores also had big nights. Brandon Jonas added eight points — including six in the first half — to go along with six rebounds. Curry had 11. Juniors Connor Roach and Seth Cox had four points each.
The Dragons had to hold off a Greenwood team that finished the regular season 7-13, but had won seven of 10 coming into the game.
“Getting the win is the goal. It wasn’t exactly how we wanted to get it. It was a three-point victory over a Greenwood team that’s playing very well right now. We had to fight for it, but it was nice coming off last week’s big game,” said NP assistant coach Trent Whitaker. Head coach Adam Barton coached the game, but wasn’t feeling well afterwards.
Greenwood slowed the pace of the game and its 2-3 zone held the Dragons at bay in the opening quarter, allowing the Woodmen to take a 7-4 lead after eight minutes. NP opened the second with an 8-0 run to take a 12-7 lead, but Greenwood rallied to tie the game back up at 14. Curry’s 3-pointer ahead of the halftime buzzer gave the Dragons a 22-19 lead, but it wouldn’t last long. Raddell Waddy scored seven third-quarter points to help the Woodmen open the period with a 9-2 run and go up 28-24 before NP responded. A 3-pointer by Morris and baskets by Jonas and Roach helped NP cut the deficit to 33-31 going into the fourth. The lead would only last 14 seconds for Greenwood — Morris’ triple on the opening possession ignited the Dragons.
And it allowed for a happy celebration for a much-decorated senior class, which clinched its first-ever unbeaten run through the Hoosier Heritage Conference seven days before. It has won two sectionals, two county tournaments, an HHC title and is just the fourth class to graduate with back-to-back 15-win seasons.
“Two sectional titles, a conference title, two countys. It’s amazing,” Morris said. “I couldn’t do it with a better group of guys. Our coaches lead us in the right direction on the court and off the court. They’ve helped me in my life.”
“It’s a very special group. Not too many New Palestine senior classes can say that they’ve done what these guys did,” Whitaker said. “They’re extremely hard workers every day in practice. They all do great things for us. It’s a neat group. They’re very good academically and they’re great kids all around.”
The Dragons move on to play host Center Grove in Tuesday’s 4A sectional at CG. The Dragons dropped a 95-89 overtime decision to the Trojans on Nov. 30, but they are the defending champs in the sectional and have won two in a row.
“Lately, it’s the time of year we’ve shone,” Whitaker said. “Hopefully, we can continue from last week’s Mt. Vernon win and getting a W tonight was big.”
New Palestine 53, Greenwood 50
GW — R.Waddy 5-14 1-2 13, Patterson 0-2 0-0 0, Jones 4-5 0-0 8, Rapp 1-2 0-0 3, Hornbeak 6-20 2-2 16, Roberts 3-5 0-0 8, Isenthal 1-2 0-0 2, A.Waddy 0-1 0-0 0. Totals — 20-51 3-4 50.
NP — Jonas 4-7 0-0 8, Larrabee 0-0 0-0 0, Morris 4-11 4-5 15, So.Haynes 3-4 0-0 7, Ikerd 1-5 1-2 4, Curry 2-7 5-5 11, Roach 1-2 2-2 4, Cox 1-2 2-4 4, Sa.Haynes 0-0 0-0 0. Totals — 16-38 14-18 53.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
GW (7-13) 7 12 14 17 — 50
NP (15-5) 4 18 9 22 — 53
3-point field goals: GW 7-18 (Hornbeak 2-8, R.Waddy 2-5, Roberts 2-2, Rapp 1-2, A.Waddy (0-1), NP 7-19 (Morris 3-6, Curry 2-6, Ikerd 1-5, So. Haynes 1-2).
Rebounds: GW 20 (R.Waddy 9, Patterson 5, Hornbeak 2, Jones 2, Isenthal 2), NP 18 (Morris 8, Jonas 6, Cox 3, Roach 2, Curry 2, So.Haynes 1). Assists: G (10 (Hornbeak 4, R.Waddy 2, Patterson 2, Rapp 1, Roberts 1), NP 11 (Ikerd 7, Morris 2, So.Haynes 1, Cox 1) Steals: GW 4 (R.Waddy 2, Hornbeak 2), NP 5 (So.Haynes 2, Curry 1, Ikerd 1, Jonas 1). Blocks: GW 1 (Isehtnal), NP 2 (Curry, Cox). Total fouls: GW 14, NP 11 Fouled out: None. Turnovers: GW 11, NP 14
New Palestine 41, Greenwood 36