Dragons continue HHC winning streak

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NEW PALESTINE — It didn’t take long for New Palestine to grasp control in Tuesday’s Hoosier Heritage Conference girls’ basketball contest against Shelbyville.

The Dragons, the defending HHC champions, who came in winners of nine consecutive league games dating back to last season, jumped on the Golden Bears early and didn’t let up.

New Palestine scored the game’s first 20 points, led by 36 at halftime and defeated Shelbyville 76-35.

With a stifling pressure defense, it was 10-0 before the Golden Bears got a shot attempt. Shelbyville’s first points didn’t come until the 1:25 mark of the first quarter.

“We’ve talked a lot about (getting off to better starts). We’ve had a lot of slow starts,” New Palestine coach Sarah Gizzi said. “We’ve been behind early a lot in games and it has taken us awhile to get going.

“We made a couple early steals that we converted, which really got everybody going.”

The Dragons improved to 8-2 overall and 3-0 in the HHC. The win was their 10th straight in league action. New Pal’s last league loss came on Jan. 18, 2018 against Pendleton Heights in the final conference game of the 2017-18 season.

New Palestine was 7-0 in conference play last season, but most of those players graduated. Gizzi has been glad to see this year’s team, young inexperience, continue to grow and develop to have success in the HHC.

“The three wins to start the conference is huge for us,” Gizzi said. “We really want to compete for that every year. We didn’t know exactly where we would be (this season). I think we feel like we’re forming a little more of an identity and that’s been pretty cool to watch happen.”

In the convincing win, the Dragons got a little help from everyone.

Michaela Jones led all scorers with 23 points, including five 3-pointers. She led four New Pal double-figure scorers. Jordan Reid had 18 points. Isabella Gizzi and Faith Hensel had 10 points apiece. Off the bench, Anna Ackerman scored nine.

Known as a defensive stopper for the team, Jones developed a hot-hand for some early offense. She had a team-best nine first-quarter points and had at least one 3-pointer in each quarter.

“I think it was important to get off to a good start,” Jones said. “By jumping out early it sends a message and sets a tone for the rest of the game.

“(Our defense) set the tone and showed we weren’t messing around.”

It was New Palestine’s fifth straight victory. It hasn’t lost since falling to undefeated second-ranked Lawrence North on Nov. 23.

Shelbyville dropped to 2-6 overall and 0-2 in the conference. It put up more of a fight in the second half, scoring 25 of the 35 points in the final two quarters. The Golden Bears were led in scoring by Jaidyn Tackett with 12. Madison Phares added nine.

New Palestine’s last three games have all come against HHC foes and all have been wins by significant margins. It won at New Castle, 63-49, on Dec. 3 and at home against Delta, 52-29, on Dec. 7.

Two more conference games are next on the slate. The Dragons host Greenfield-Central at 6 p.m. Friday in a girls-boys varsity doubleheader. They host Mt. Vernon, winners over New Pal in last year’s sectional final, on Dec. 17.