At 9-3, the Dragons are a game behind the pace set by last year’s group, which started 10-2 and finished 17-7. That unit captured the program’s second straight sectional championship, its third such honor in four seasons.
New Palestine is riding high into Friday’s game at Roncalli (5-5), with Michael Morris’ buzzer-beating 3-pointer lifting the red and white to victory last Friday at Pendleton Heights.
With the win, NP remained even with Mt. Vernon atop the Hoosier Heritage Conference with a 4-0 mark. Yorktown (10-1) is 3-0.
If the last-second win over the Arabians was the season high point for the Dragons, the low mark would be their 60-39 loss to the Marauders in the semifinals of the Hancock County Tournament on Dec. 29.
The defeat to MV was a benchmark game for NP. The Dragons entered that contest averaging 67 points per game and allowing 59. Since, both totals have dropped; their scoring mark is down to 52.8 ppg, with the defense surrendering 47.5.
In a stark contrast to last season, coach Adam Barton’s current squad is beginning games well — the 2011-12 squad was a notoriously slow starting bunch — but occasionally has engaged in laissez-faire ball handling at the end of games.
“We still have work to do with late game situations,” said Barton, whose three sectional titles are two more than any coach in school history. “We’ve struggled a bit with taking care of the basketball.”
Michael Morris — The reigning Hancock County Player of the Year is at it again in 2012-13, posting averages of 18.8 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 59.6 percent, including 45.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Each of those numbers is an improvement over last season, and the senior forward has even surpassed his 2011-12 assist total of 19 with 21 this go-around.