PENDLETON — Brogan Gary was good.
Michael Morris — and his teammates — were better.
Morris hit a 3-pointer as time expired Friday to lift his New Palestine basketball squad to a 51-48, Hoosier Heritage Conference win over Pendleton Heights.
Twelve seconds prior to Morris’ game-winner, Gary sank a contest-tying three for the Arabians.
“I was like, ‘Oh gosh, here we go again, another overtime game,’” said Morris, whose Dragons (9-3, 4-0 HHC) have lost two games that went into an extra session this season. “But I knew I was going to get the shot, and (Brandon) Jonas set a good screen. I pulled up and hit it, luckily. I did not want to go to overtime.”
Ahead 48-41 with less than two minutes left in the game, New Palestine, which never trailed, was cruising towards its first win on Pendleton Heights’ home floor since 2003.
But, late New Palestine mistakes and opportunistic shooting by the defending conference champion Arabians (6-5, 2-2 HHC) made for a thrilling finish.
Gary’s 3-pointer with 14.4 seconds left capped a 7-0 blitz by the Arabians centered around a pair of New Palestine turnovers and the missed front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity.
In the New Palestine timeout that followed Gary’s potential game-changer, Dragons coach Adam Barton was certain of one thing — Morris, Hancock County’s reigning Player of the Year, would get the Dragons’ final attempt.
“Oh, no question,” Barton said. “I didn’t know how. I didn’t care how. Actually told everybody to set a screen for Mike and just get to the baseline as fast as they could and get him as much room as (Pendleton Heights) could, and they came out in a zone.
“And it worked out that Jonas had a screen in the same place he was supposed to in the man set, and they didn’t have any help on the backside and Mike shot it with confidence. I mean there was no question he was going up with it.”
Morris’ shot from the top of the key sailed through the net with two seconds remaining, and, as the clock continued to roll, the Arabians couldn’t get off a final attempt.
Friday’s matchup served as a duel between two of the conference’s three leading scorers: Morris (18. 7 points per game) and Gary (17.5) trail only Mt. Vernon’s CJ Coleman (19.4) among HHC sharp-shooters.
Neither Gary (23 points) or Morris (20) disappointed Friday, but while Gary was 9-of-24 from the field — hoisting nearly half off his team’s 50 field goal attempts — Morris was a more judicious 8-of-14, confident in his fellow Dragons’ contributions.
Jonas tallied five points in the first quarter and nine points total in the first half as New Palestine took leads of 11-6 and 25-19.
Connor Roach, making his first start in place of the injured Justin Ikerd (broken foot), made both of his shot attempts in the second half to finish with four points, which, in a game such as Friday’s, was crucial.
Ryan Curry had seven points. Seth Cox pulled down six rebounds. And Solomon Haynes tallied six assists.
“You can’t win with one player,” Morris noted. “You have to rely on your teammates.”
Barton added, “Without Ikerd, that’s absolutely huge. Seth played more minutes tonight than he’s played all year. I thought Connor Roach did an incredible job. It was just neat to see them all step up the way they did.”
Ikerd was averaging 10 points a game for the Dragons, and he’s expected to miss eight weeks, Barton said. That would put a possible return for the starter on the weekend of March 8 — regional weekend.
“He loves basketball, that’s what he’s done all his life,” Barton said of Ikerd, a senior. “I don’t know that he’s ever gotten enough credit for what he does for us. He’s very consistent. He’s scored 10 points a year since his sophomore year. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him.
“And for a kid like that who works that hard to have to sit on the bench for a while, he’s pretty much crushed right now.”
The Dragons hope to do their sidelined teammate proud as they attempt to capture the conference title. Mt. Vernon (4-0) and Yorktown (3-0) are also undefeated in the HHC, and New Palestine has games remaining with each.
New Palestine will have to clean up its late-game skittishness — seven of its 15 turnovers Friday were in the fourth quarter, nearly squandering a stellar effort.
“(Pendleton Heights) got a couple breaks tonight, but we also were in the same mode that we were in at the end of the Franklin Central game,” Barton said, referring to a 59-55 win by the Dragons in which they were outscored 22-16 in the final quarter. “We’ve had some struggles at the end of the fourth quarter handling the basketball, and most of it I think is a mentality of all week long in practice we can throw over the top of our JV kids.
“And then you’re playing a varsity kid who is bigger, stronger and is fired up and we’re trying to throw over the top. And we just have to be more fundamental.”
Barton won at Pendleton Heights for the first time in four tries.
“When we got nine or 11 points off the get-go, I thought ‘Wait a second, this is not what we do here,’” he said. “Usually I’m throwing a fit and have used three timeouts in the first quarter.”
Notes: Kurt Talbert finished with 12 points for the Arabians. … New Palestine won the rebounding battle 24-18. … The Arbians finished 20-of-50 from the field; the Dragons, 20-of-40. ... The Arabians won the JV game 39-31. Ben Farley led the Dragons with nine points.
New Palestine 51, Pendleton Heights 48
NP — Curry 2-7 2-3 7, So. Haynes 1-5 0-0 2, Sa. Haynes 1-1 0-0 3, Larrabee 0-0 0-0 0, Jonas 5-10 3-3 13, Roach 2-2 0-0 4, Morris 8-14 0-0 20, Cox 1-1 0-0 2. Totals — 20-40 5-6 51.
PH — Buck 0-1 0-0 0, Moore 3-10 0-1 7, Gary 9-24 2-2 23, Brizendine 0-0 0-0 0, Talbert 5-6 2-4 12, McCardwell 1-1 0-0 2, Phillips 0-0 0-0 0, McDermott 2-8 0-0 4. Totals — 20-50 4-7 48.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
NP (9-3, 3-0 HHC) 11 14 10 16 — 51
PH (6-5, 2-2 HHC) 6 13 10 19 — 48
Three-pt. field goals: NP 6-16 (Curry 1-5, So. Haynes 0-2, Sa. Haynes 1-1, Morris 4-8). PH 4-16 (Buck 0-1, Moore 1-3, Gary 3-11, McDermott 0-1).
Rebounds: NP 24 (Curry 2, So. Haynes 6, Sa. Haynes 3, Jonas 2, Roach 1, Morris 4, Cox 6), PH 18 (Buck 2, Moore 3, Gary 3, Brizendine 1, Talbert 4, McCardwell 2, Phillips 1, McDermott 2). Assists: NP 8 (Curry 1, So. Haynes 3, Sa. Haynes 1, Jonas 2, Morris 2), PH 6 (Buck 1, Moore 2, Gary 3). Steals: NP 5 (Curry 2, So. Haynes 1, Morris 1), PH 6 (Moore 1, Gary 1, Talbert 2, McCardwell 2). Blocks: NP 0, PH 1 (McCardwell 1). Total fouls: NP 12, PH 12. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: NP 15, PH 6.
Pendleton Heights 39, New Palestine 31
NP — Farley 9, Blackwell 6, Lytle 3, Riley 3, Chandler 3, Hickman 2, Hiland 2, Kuhn 2, McKay 1.