Second-half surge: Dragons win going away at Pendleton Heights


By Steve Heath

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PENDLETON — After a first half of significant runs from both teams, New Palestine’s Blaine Nunnally had a scoring spurt of his own.

The Dragons sophomore guard scored 12 third-quarter points, hitting 5 of 6 field-goal attempts, including 2 of 2 from 3-point range to lead New Palestine to a 55-34 Hoosier Heritage Conference win at Pendleton Heights, Friday.

Nunnally finished with a game-high 19 points. He outscored Pendleton Heights on his own in the third period, 12-10, leading the Dragons to the decisive win.

“Blaine did what Blaine does,” New Palestine coach Trent Whitaker said. “When it comes time for a play he needs to make, he steps up and makes the play. He did a nice job.”

New Palestine outscored Pendleton Heights 32-14 in the second half. It sealed the win by hitting 12 of 14 fourth-quarter free throws.

The Dragons hit 14 of 17 at the line (82.4 percent) for the game, coming back after a rough stretch last week in a close conference loss at Delta and narrow win over Southport.

In a 52-51 loss at Delta, New Pal hit 60 percent (9 of 15) from the line. In a 45-42 win over Southport, the Dragons shot 52.6 percent, connecting on 20-of-38 attempts.

“Going into last weekend we’re shooting 72 percent at the free-throw line. They’re good shooters and we knew they’d bounce back,” Whitaker said.

Five different players hit at least two fourth-quarter free throws. Nunnally went 4 of 4 while, Eli Stephens, C.J. Oliver, Ian Stephens and Kyle Bastian each made two.

The Dragons improved to 7-3 overall and 3-1 in the conference. The Arabians dropped to 3-5. It was their first conference game.

Pendleton Heights was coming off a three-game winning streak, all coming in capturing the Madison County Tournament championship last week.

“The mental and physical toughness was the key factor tonight,” Pendleton Heights first-year coach Adam Ballard said. “In the second half, they took their physicality and determination to another level and we didn’t.

“Tonight we knew this was going to be a measuring stick of how far we had come. We knew we were getting better. For 16 minutes we looked like we made a lot of progress. The second 16 minutes we fell back into some bad habits.”

The first half was a game of runs and the Dragons had the last one to lead 23-20 at the break.

Down 15-10, New Palestine scored the next 10 points. It started with a conventional three-point play from Nunnally. The Dragons took the lead on a three-pointer by another sophomore, Ian Stephens, for a 16-15 advantage. Steele Brasfield, who led all scorers at intermission with 10 points, scored on a drive to the hoop and Oliver finished the run by hitting a jumper after an assist from Brasfield.

New Palestine scored the game’s first seven points. Pendleton Heights followed with the next nine. The Arabians didn’t get their first points until a bucket from Zion Cook with 3:27 left in the opening period.

Pendleton Heights’ Jamison Dunham hit a short jumper right before the first-quarter buzzer to give the Arabians an 11-10 lead at the end of the period. Dunham’s bucket started a 6-0 run. The Arabians extended the lead to 15-10 after two-pointers from Gabe Simons and Evan John.

“We had too many turnovers (in the first half),” Whitaker said. “They were aggressive turnovers for the most part, which we can deal with, but you can’t turn it over 12 times and expect to build a lead at half.

“We tightened some things up in the second half.”

Following Nunnally, Brasfield scored 16 points. Oliver had seven and Ian Stephens had five.

No Arabian reached double figures. Simons led Pendleton Heights with eight points. Cook added seven, while Dunham and Ethan Ross had six apiece.

Dunham came in leading Pendleton Heights in scoring, averaging 16.6 points per game.

Whitaker credited the defense of Oliver to slow down the Arabian sharpshooter.

“Every time (Dunham) caught it, C.J. was there and kept the basketball in front,” Whitaker said. “I can’t say enough about that young man. He’s a kid that has stuck with the program. He played freshman, played JV for two years and is finally getting a shot (as a senior). He’s doing exactly what we need him to do, defend and knock down free throws.”

Dunham hit just 3 of 12 shots.

The Arabians hit 28.6 percent (6 of 21) as a team in the second half and shot 31.9 percent (15 of 47) for the game.

The Dragons are back in action tonight (beginning with a 6 p.m. JV game) at Mooresville. Pendleton Heights game with Shelbyville tonight was postponed, but the Arabians were able to add Madison-Grant, at home, also beginning with a 6 p.m. junior varsity contest.