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Mid-season hoops report: New Palestine


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SO FAR

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.”

 

STUD

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.

In the season-opener against Jennings County on Nov. 21, Morris poured in a career-best 37 points. Morris has scored in double figures in all but one game this year, and in 16 of 18 contests dating back to last season.

Morris has a narrow edge over Mt. Vernon’s CJ Coleman (18.8-18.7) for the Hancock County scoring lead.

SURPRISES

Brandon Jonas — Jonas appeared in 23 of the team’s 24 games a year ago, but was stuck behind seniors Reid Clark, Brandon Collins and Josh Penley in the rotation.

Inserted as a starter from Day 1 this winter, Jonas has delivered in his expanded role, notching per-game totals of 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds.

The emergence of the sophomore pivot has kept the Dragons from pigeonholing Morris on the block, allowing the 6-6 forward to make use of his face-up game away from the cylinder.

 Jonas has also been active on the offensive glass, recording at least two offensive rebounds in seven games.

“Brandon Jonas as really stepped up for us. Over the last month of the season, he’s playing very relaxed,” Barton offered. “He’s a tough matchup in the post. He’s done a good job of scoring around the basket and getting to the boards.”

Guard Ryan Curry has been another noteworthy addition to Dragons’ starting lineup.

The sophomore is averaging 10.1 points and leads the county with 28 converted 3-pointers. Curry scored nearly half the team’s points in a 59-55 win over Franklin Central, finishing with a career-high 27.

 

2ND HALF

In its remaining eight regular-season games, New Palestine will take on three HHC foes (Mt. Vernon, Shelbyville, Yorktown) and a trio of common Sectional 13 opponents (Franklin, Greenwood and Whiteland).

“And the other two are against 4A schools,” commented Barton, referring to Mooresville and Roncalli.

Unfortunately for the Dragons, they will have to weather that tough slate without senior guard Justin Ikerd, who is out until early March with a broken foot.

Ikerd, averaging 10 points before his injury, was a key cog in NP’s last two sectional titles, and his absence robs the squad of valuable postseason experience.

“We’re basically going into the second half with Mike (Morris) and (Solomon Haynes) as the only players that have played in tournament scenarios,” Barton noted.

LEADERS

(per game)

SCORING

18.8 l Michael Morris

10.3 l Brandon Jonas

10.1 l Ryan Curry

 

REBOUNDING

6.8 l Michael Morris

6.7 l Brandon Jonas

 

ASSISTS

3.0 l Solomon Haynes

 

FIELD GOAL %

65.7 l Brandon Jonas

53.0 l Michael Morris

 

FREE THROW %

74.1 l Michael Morris

 

3-POINT %

45.5 l Michael Morris

40.0 l Ryan Curry

SCHEDULE (9-3)

Nov. 21     Jennings County {4A}      W   58-  55    

Nov. 24     New Castle {4A}      W   59-  50    

Nov. 30     at Center Grove {4A}     ot  L   89-  95    

Dec. 1     Rushville {3A}‡      W   73-  47    

Dec. 7     at Greenfield-Central {4A}‡      W   68-  40    

Dec. 14     at Westfield {4A}     ot  L   61-  65    

Dec. 15     Franklin Central {4A}      W   59-  55    

Dec. 18     Beech Grove {3A}      W   69-  65    

Dec. 29     at Mount Vernon (Fortville) {3A}       L   39-  60    

Dec. 29     (n)Eastern Hancock {2A}      W   59-  34    

Jan. 4     at Delta {3A}‡      W   62-  48    

Jan. 11     at Pendleton Heights {4A}‡      W   51-  48    

Jan. 18     at Indianapolis Roncalli {4A}     7:30 pm    

Jan. 19     Whiteland {4A}     7:30 pm    

Jan. 25     Yorktown {3A}‡     7:30 pm    

Feb. 1     at Shelbyville {4A}‡     7:30 pm    

Feb. 2     at Mooresville {4A}     7:30 pm    

Feb. 7     Franklin {4A}     7:30 pm    

Feb. 15     Mount Vernon (Fortville) {3A}‡     7:30 pm    

Feb. 22     Greenwood {4A}     7:30 pm    

‡HOOSIER HERITAGE CONFERENCE GAME

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