GREENFIELD — Friday night’s conference clash between Greenfield-Central and New Palestine was a physical battle from the opening tip until the final whistle.
The refs tried to prevent it, calling 42 fouls in the contest. Blood was spilled after what looked like an errant elbow. Two players fouled out.
The intensity what you’d expect from a county rivalry game.
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“If it was a knockdown, it was for a rebound. If it was a slap, it was for a steal. If it was two bodies going to the floor, it was because there was a loose ball,” Greenfield-Central coach Lukas Haworth said. “That’s what makes these types of games fun. As long as it doesn’t cross over to the line of dirty, and it’s just two teams that really love to compete against one another and really love to beat each other, that’s what you want to see. I couldn’t be more proud of the effort we gave and the chance we gave ourselves tonight.”
The Cougars came out firing, making six first-quarter 3-pointers and opening up a 10-point lead against the county-rival Dragons.
They wouldn’t hold their lead for long. The Dragons, opening their season several weeks later than the rest of the state, knocked off the rust in the second quarter, tying things up going into halftime.
A 9-0 New Palestine run to start the second half put some distance between the teams, and the visitors held on to top the Cougars with a hard-fought 75-65 win.
“That was an absolute battle from the get-go,” New Palestine coach Trent Whitaker said. “Greenfield did an outstanding job. They jumped on us early. We knew they shot a lot of threes and they were going to hit some. In the second quarter we were able to make a run and just gut it out. That’s a pretty good team win right there.”
The Cougars and Dragons went back and forth for 32 minutes.
The game wasn’t decided until late in the contest, when free throws started piling up and New Palestine was able to open a double-digit lead.
“Tonight I thought we had more of that balance that we’re looking for,” Haworth said. “Unfortunately against a team like New Pal, even when you execute for 30 out of 32 minutes, when you go through that two-minute spot of missing a rebound or losing a shooter, they make you pay for it. I was extremely proud of the step forward that we took based on what we’d seen in the first two games.”
Leading the way in the win for New Palestine was Maximus Gizzi, who scored 27 points and added eight rebounds and three assists.
Behind Gizzi was Matthew True, who scored 19 points and added four rebounds himself and finally got to guard someone other than his teammate after the long delay to start the season.
“It feels good to start,” True said. “After weeks of practice it’s finally good to go up against someone else and not have to guard Maximus all the time.”
Dylan Romine was the final Dragon to score in double figures, adding 13 points and eight rebounds. Dawson Eastes had nine points a game-high nine rebounds.
As a team, the Dragons dominated the glass, out-rebounding Greenfield-Central 43-22 and starting their season 1-0.
“We were a little bigger than them and we knew we could get the rebounds,” Whitaker said. “We talked about it all week and the kids just went out and did it. Their effort, they’ve got motors that don’t stop. That’s what I love about them.”
The Cougars were led by 17 points and seven rebounds from Caleb Mundell. Jacob Cochran added 16 points, and Brady Mundell and Caleb McIntire each scored nine for the hosts.
They were fired up coming out of the gates and they fought until the end. While the 0-3 start to the season is a disappointment to the Cougars, their coach wasn’t the only one who saw a step forward for the team.
“It’s the New Pal rivalry, man,” Caleb Mundell said. “That’s what that is. Everybody was ready to go. I’m pretty proud. Big step in the right direction. We got close, and we’re getting better every day.”
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New Palestine 75, Greenfield-Central 65
New Palestine (1-0): Maximus Gizzi 11 5-10 27, Matthew True 4 8-10 19, Dylan Romine 5 1-2 13, Dawson Eastes 4 1-3 9, Maxen Hook 0 2-4 2, Kyle King 0 1-2 1, Jack Walker 0 0-0 0, Eric Roudebush 2 0-0 4, Jacob Hockett 0 0-0 0. Totals: 26 18-30 75.
Greenfield-Central (0-3): Brady Mundell 3 3-4 9, Jacob Cochran 5 4-5 16, Caleb McIntire 3 0-0 9, Caleb Mundell 5 4-6 17, Sam Hunt 3 0-0 7, Gavin Robertson 1 2-2 5, Gavin Rose 0 0-0 0, Will VanDuyn 1 0-0 2, Chris O’Connor 0 0-0 0, Tyler Antic 0 0-0 0, Brock Wheeler 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 13-17 65.
3-point goals: New Palestine 5 (True 3, Romine 2), Greenfield-Central 10 (C. Mundell 3, McIntire 3, Cochran 2, Hunt, Robertson).