NEW PALESTINE — New Palestine may not have liked the refereeing. It may not have liked Roncalli’s style of play.
But the Dragons got a well-timed lesson in physicality from the battle-tested 4A Rebels, who downed the hosts 72-57 Friday night. NP (6-4) would be well-served to take heed of that teaching as they embark on the second half of their schedule, a 10-game docket that features nine games against 4A schools.
There’s also no getting around the obvious: Friday night’s tilt in Southern Hancock County resembled a well-whistled rugby match, with 54 the noticeable number — that’s how many free throws and fouls the two teams combined for.
Dragon coach Adam Barton declined to comment on the officiating, but referenced both his team’s last game — a 45-36 home defeat to Pendleton Heights last Friday — and the Rebels (5-6) style of play in explaining his squad’s first losing streak of the year.
“This time last week … I was home by 9 (p.m.). I mean I was home from the game by 9 o’clock. There were 10 fouls each way, there was a flow — it was a basketball game. And it really wasn’t tonight,” Barton said.
“My frustration would be that were not...we’re a small 4A school and we don’t have a lot of strong kids. The strong kids that we have all had two or three fouls in the first half, and that was the strongest team we’re going to play all year. Strength-wise, they took our players out of the ball game. We have to improve strength-wise, and that’s a lesson we learn in this game every single year.”
In the first half alone, the squads combined for 27 free throws and 25 fouls. Brandon Jonas and Seth Cox, NP’s second and third leading scorers, both had three fouls before the half ended with a 37-26 Rebel advantage. Jonas would pick up his fourth foul two minutes into the third quarter and spent most of the second half on the bench.
“Having Jonas, Cox and (Connor) Roach all on the bench in the second quarter with foul trouble was a killer for what we would’ve liked to have done offensively,” Barton said.
Roncalli began the third quarter on an 11-4 run, with leading scorer Jimmy King catching fire and registering six of his team’s points during the spurt. He also assisted on another score.
The Dragons rallied by getting the visitors in foul trouble, and reached the single bonus with one minute and 39 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The hosts closed the third frame on a 7-0 run — largely due to a 5-of-6 performance on the charity stripe — and trailed 52-41 heading in the final eight minutes.
“Last week I was pretty disappointed. I thought we didn’t have a lot of fire. I thought we didn’t have a lot of fight when things went bad. We kind of disappeared,” Barton said. “Things were bad tonight foul-wise and maybe some of the calls weren’t going our way, (but) I thought our kids competed.”
Junior forward Kevin Riley, who had the best game of his career Friday, opened the fourth quarter with a triple for NP. After King drilled a jumper and a 3-pointer, Dragon point guard Solomon Haynes converted an and-1. Then, NP leading scorer Ryan Curry — who endured another rough shooting night — made the only one of his seven 3-point attempts, and suddenly the Dragons were within seven at 57-50 with just under five minutes left.
The Rebels called timeout, and then responded to effectively end the game. King hit both ends of a 1-and-1, then dished off to Max Clifford for a corner 3-pointer.
Haynes hit a short 2-pointer to cut the advantage to 64-55, but then NP followed with a nearly 3-minute scoreless drought as Roncalli — which came in with the 17th-toughest schedule in the state regardless of class — hit enough free throws down the stretch to seal it.
King finished with 26 points — one short of his season-high — on 7-of-11 shooting. The 6-4 junior was also 11-of-11 from the foul line and handed out six assists. David Holtkamp, Levi Bailey and Kyle Stretch all notched 10 points for the Rebels, who went 23-of-35 from the free-throw line.
Riley (14 points) and Haynes (11 points) both tallied career highs for the Dragons, who shot 19-of-57 (33 percent) from the field. Coming off tough shooting nights against Delta and Pendleton Heights, Curry (3-of-18 shooting) struggled again Friday.
At this time last year, NP had already played 15 games. With the start of season delayed by the success of the regional-champion football team, the Dragons still have half their season left.
And after playing four games in the past four weeks, NP has a busy week ahead of it. A trip to New Castle (4-7) Tuesday will mark the Dragons’ first road game since Jan. 4. A road tilt at Yorktown (7-2, 2-0 HHC) awaits Friday before 4A No. 14 Perry Meridian (10-1) comes to NP a week from today.
“It’s kind of weird to say in the second half of the season we’re going to build off that fire that you have, but it’s Jan. 24 and we still have half of our games left,” Barton said. “We still have a lot of basketball to play, and hopefully we will shoot the ball better soon. Hopefully, we can use that intensity and show improvement.”
Notes: Roncalli won the JV game 48-40. Ben Farley scored 13 points for New Palestine. … Friday marked the third meeting between the teams in the past 20 years. The Rebels won 51-42 last year and also came away with a 41-40 decision in sectional play on March 4, 2003. … Roncalli’s last losing season was 2003-04 when it finished 10-11. … Riley and Haynes combined for eight rebounds.
Roncalli 72, New Palestine 57
RO — King 7-11 11-11 26, Clifford 3-8 0-0 9, Holtkamp 3-7 4-12 10, Bailey 2-4 6-6 10, Stretch 4-9 1-2 10, Fey 0-1 0-2 0, Annee 2-2 0-0 4, Smock 1-3 0-0 2, Sturdivant 0-0 0-0 0, McCauley 0-1 1-2 1. Totals — 22-43 23-35 72.
NP — Curry 3-18 3-4 10, Jonas 3-4 0-1 6, Long 0-2 0-0 0, Haynes 4-11 3-5 11, Roach 2-5 3-4 8, Duffy 0-2 0-0 0, Cox 3-4 0-1 6, Blackwell 0-4 2-2 2, Riley 4-6 4-4 14, Lytle 0-1 0-0 0. Totals — 19-57 13-19 57.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
RO (5-6) 20 17 15 25 — 72
NP (6-4) 13 13 15 16 — 57
Three-pt. field goals: RO 5-17 (King 1-3, Clifford 3-6, Holtkamp 0-3, Stretch 1-3, Fey 0-1, McCauley 0-1). NP 4-22 (Curry 1-7, Long 0-2, Haynes 0-5, Roach 1-2, Duffy 0-2, Blackwell 0-1, Riley 2-2, Lytle 0-1).
Rebounds: RO 19 (King 2, Clifford 1, Holtkamp 4, Bailey 3, Stretch 4, Fey 1, Annee 1, Smock 3), NP 30 (Curry 6, Jonas 4, Long 2, Haynes 5, Roach 2, Cox 6, Blackwell 2, Riley 3). Assists: RO 10 (King 6, Holtkamp 2, Bailey 1, Fey 1), NP 4 (Curry 2, Haynes 1, Roach 1). Steals: RO 6 (King 1, Holtkamp 2, Bailey 1, Smock 1, Sturdivant 1), NP 2 (Curry 1, Riley 1). Blocks: RO 1 (Bailey 1), NP 0. Total fouls: RO 26, NP 28. Fouled out: Roach (NP). Turnovers: RO 10, NP 15.
Roncalli 48, New Palestine 40
NP — VanderWal 7, Farley 13, Cook 5, Rightley 6, McKay 5, Hiland 4.