NEW PALESTINE — With one of the state’s youngest girls basketball rosters, New Palestine coach Jacki Negri knew going in there would be nights like Saturday.
Such as a 56-19 defeat Whiteland laid on the Dragons in the season opener for both teams.
Nine players dressed for NP — all of whom are freshmen or sophomores. Only sophomore Adie Lorsung had appeared in a varsity contest last season. The core of last year’s squad consisted entirely of seniors.
Predictably, a Warriors team with five of its first six players seniors had its way with the Dragons. Whiteland led 37-8 at halftime and scored 13 unanswered points to close out the first half.
NP had 33 turnovers — 20 in the first half — and as a result attempted only 29 shots. They made five, for 17 percent.
“I saw some good things and obviously I saw things we need to improve on,” Negri said. “They made improvements from the first half to the second half. We talked about things we needed to improve on and they did better.”
Sophomore Emma Laughlin paced the Dragons with eight points —three field goals and 2-for-2 from the foul line. She also had five rebounds and four steals.
Freshman Haley Stratman added four points as well as a team-high seven rebounds.
“I think with these girls early on, it’s going to be about small victories, small goals,” Negri said. “It may not even have to do with the score. It may be that we may want to cut down on turnovers, or we want to run certain plays effectively. These are small things that carry on to big things down the road.”
The Dragons did record a win of sorts Saturday, as they outscored Whiteland 6-5 in the final quarter.
“I thought they would be extremely nervous, but they did well,” Negri said. “They carried themselves well. I thought it would be more of a deer in the headlights syndrome, but it really wasn’t.
“They kept their composure and they tried to execute, and they actually did well considering how young they really are.”