NEW PALESTINE — Maximus Gizzi stood near center court before the opening tip on Friday night to accept his commemorative basketball with a focused look in his eyes.
Honored as New Palestine High School’s 10th 1,000-point career scorer all time and seventh best in boys basketball history, the senior posed for photos and then added to his total.
Gizzi swiped a steal and dropped in the game’s first bucket with a transition layup en route to a game-high 19 points, while the Class 4A Dragons won their season opener 56-40 over rival Greenfield-Central.
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“There was a ton of emotion and anticipation just waiting to play in this game for months now. It took me a second and a deep breath, especially getting that ball, but once I swallowed that we were ready to roll,” Gizzi said. “Like it was a normal ball game.”
Gizzi’s 19 points pushed him closer to T.J. Ott’s 1,025 from 1994-98. At 1,023, Gizzi is 262 points from tying Tom Giles, who holds the school record at 1,285 set from 1975-79.
It’s a mark Gizzi, a Marian recruit, is shooting towards, but not at the expense of wins. Against Hoosier Heritage Conference foe Greenfield-Central (0-3, 0-1 HHC), he took care of both.
The Dragons shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half and opened with a 15-5 run to build a 21-point margin by halftime.
“You look back a year ago, and we couldn’t really score in the first quarter, and they were hitting shots. The one thing we want to do is making sure we get that ball inside that zone,” Dragons head coach Trent Whitaker said. “The zone sometimes can frustrate teams. That’s what try to do, and we were able to make some shots early.”
The Dragons (1-0, 1-0) attacked inside and out, shooting 6 of 13 from 3-point range and had four players finished with eight points.
Steele Brasfield, Dawson Eastes, Matthew Brown and Eric Roudebush all reached the mark with a combined 17 rebounds, including 13 on the defensive glass.
Gizzi added five assists and eight rebounds, shooting 5 of 11 from the field. He went 7 of 9 from the free-throw line. Brown was 4 of 7 from the floor, and Blaine Nunnally had five points off the bench.
“Offensively, I thought we did well, but defensively, only giving up 10 points in the first half, it was nice to see,” Whitaker said. “Our kids made sure they kept the basketball in front of them, and that’s one thing we need to pride ourselves on.”
The Cougars were led by Jacob Cochran’s 16 points and 7 of 11 shooting night. Cochran came off the bench in the first half, but he started the second and erupted for 14 points in the final 16 minutes. He led the team with seven rebounds.
A 3-pointer from Gavin Robertson, who had seven points, sliced the deficit to 13 points in the third quarter, and freshman Dylan Moles scored six points as a starter.
“If you look at the stat sheet, we had six or seven guys who all scored important buckets and came in and played good defense tonight,” Gizzi said. “I think we’re deep and versatile. I think that’s huge for us.”