NEW PALESTINE — One year ago Monday, New Palestine and Franklin Central resumed a boys basketball series that had been dormant for 15 seasons.
NP has now beaten the Flashes three times within the year, including a 59-55 decision Saturday night.
But the Dragons had to earn this one, just like the other two (NP won 64-63 last December and defeated the Flashes 58-51 in the sectional final in March). Saturday, FC cut a 13-point deficit from early in the fourth quarter to 55-53 with 1:27 to go.
“We talked with the kids about how physical we were going to have to play,” NP coach Adam Barton said. “I thought it was a physical game and we didn’t back down from that physicality, which is a good sign.”
That meant lots of trips to the foul line for both teams — a combined 48 attempts. However, accuracy was another issue, because the Dragons (5-2) missed 12 of their 25 tries and the Flashes were only 12-for-23.
And that made sophomore Ryan Curry’s seven three-point baskets important for NP. Curry ended with a career-high 27 points, three more than his previous best, at Center Grove Nov. 30, and was one shy of the single-game school record for threes.
Curry was unstoppable in the third quarter, as the Dragons extended a 25-22 halftime lead. He began by making three free throws after being fouled while shooting beyond the arc, then made three treys without a miss, one being the front end of a four-point play.
Michael Morris contributed 13 points — eight in the second period — and Brandon Jonas added seven points and, for the second straight night, 10 rebounds.
NP led 46-33 with 7:37 left and 54-43 midway through the fourth, but couldn’t enjoy it until the final buzzer. The Flashes (3-4) made a 10-1 run over the next 2 1/2 minutes to get to within a bucket, unraveling the Dragons in the process (NP had seven turnovers in the final period).
But Jonas interrupted the FC outburst by getting open and converting a feed from Justin Ikerd, and with 1:11 left NP was up 57-53.
The Flashes again made it a two-point game and had two chances to either tie or go ahead, but they lost the ball the first time and missed a three-point try with six seconds left that would have made it 58-all.
“I put that comeback on (FC’s) strength and athletic ability,” Barton said. “They gave us some open looks early on, but the fourth quarter they didn’t.”
FC’s Jacob Malone led all scorers with 18 points and the Flashes were impacted when guard Forrester Sims, their leading scorer, went down early with an injury.
“We didn’t handle situations very well again (Saturday), but at least we looked confident,” Barton said. “We played two strong 4A schools this weekend and we competed in both of them and that’s a good sign for after Christmas.”
Notes: Eleven top NP athletes from the class of 2012 along with former gymnastics coach Diane Roudebush were inducted into the school’s Wall of Fame at halftime. ... A one-handed, 30-foot shot by Ben Farley at the buzzer gave the Dragons’ JV squad a 43-40 win over FC. ... The Dragons host Beech Grove tonight. It’s NP’s third game in five nights.