Dragons season ends in sectional semifinals


New Palestine’s Isabella Gizzi (11) guards Pendleton Heights’ Abi Rosenkrans (24) closely during their Class 4A Sectional 9 semifinal game at Mt. Vernon High School on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022. (Rob Baker/For Daily Reporter)

FORTVILLE — The start was strong, but when the turnover totals began to rise, New Palestine’s chances of moving on to tonight’s Class 4A Sectional 9 championship game began to fall.

The Dragons led by as much as five points in the first quarter and early in the second, but Pendleton Heights’ defensive pressure proved to be too much.

The Arabians, getting a number of easy buckets off the New Pal miscues, went on a 10-2 run to end the first half. They carried that momentum to a 66-46 victory in Saturday’s semi-final game at Mt. Vernon.

The Dragons finished their season with a 13-11 record. Pendleton Heights improved to 19-5. The Arabians will be looking for their first sectional title since 2011 tonight against defending champion Mt. Vernon (16-8).

Pendleton Heights, though having a number of key players on the bench due to foul trouble, were able to turn its late second-quarter spurt into a seven-point halftime lead, 29-22.

“There were so many empty possessions,” New Palestine coach Sarah Gizzi said. “We were down by seven (at halftime) and it was 100 percent turnovers and their scoring on offensive boards.

“Even down seven at halftime, I felt OK. We just couldn’t cut into that. It got over 10 and it stayed over 10. From the start we looked a little shaky with our ball-handling and passing. Usually we can work ourselves out of that, but we struggled with that tonight.”

New Pal senior Alaina Miller hit a 3 to start the game and the Dragons were able to open up an 11-6 lead before the Arabians tied it, 11-11, at the end of the quarter.

In the second period, the Dragons got the lead back to five.

Junior Isabella Gizzi hit a 3-pointer, at the 6:53 mark of the period, then added a pair of free throws 30 seconds later for a 16-11 advantage.

The Gizzi trey was the last New Palestine field goal until a Gizzi 2-pointer at the 3:48 mark of the third quarter.

The Dragons had hit a few free throws in between, but the Arabians had already extended their lead into double figures.

New Pal committed seven second-quarter turnovers and had eight in the third period. Its unofficial total for turnovers was 26.

“It was a great crowd and a big game and sometimes that gets to you a little bit,” coach Gizzi added. “Pendleton played great and they’re big and long. Their 1-3-1 (defense) was pretty tough for us.”

Isabella Gizzi led all scorers with 23 points. Miller added 14.

Pendleton Heights had three in double figures led by Hailee Brunnemer with 19.

Brunnemer hit a 3 with 5:51 left in the first half to give the Arabians their first lead, 17-16.

Abi Rosenkrans followed with 16 points. Frosh Kaycie Warfel, the Arabians leading scorer at 16.3 points per game, sat most of the first half with foul problems. She finished with 10 points, all in the second half.

Coach Gizzi added that she liked how her team continued to battle throughout the night.

“My girls don’t stop fighting and I am always really proud of that,” the coach said. “You always have to keep fighting. We won 13 games this year; that was an accomplishment for our team. I thought we had a good season overall, but it’s hard when it ends like that.

“We had some real highs and lows like every team, but I was proud of our effort. I wish we could have cleaned it up a little bit. We were in it. The first quarter was great and then we kind of let it slip away.”

Pendleton Heights 66, New Palestine 46

New Palestine;11;11;8;16;—;46

Pendleton Heights;11;18;15;22;—;66

New Palestine (13-11): Alaina Miller 5 3-6 14, Isabella Gizzi 6 10-10 23, Allie Blum 1 0-0 2, Rachel Kelley 1 0-0 2, Vivian Miller 0 5-6 5, Tylar Whitaker 0 0-0 0, Taylor Kelley 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 18-22 46.

Pendleton Heights (19-5): Hailee Brunnemer 8 2-3 19, Kaycie Warfel 3 4-5 10, Abi Rosenkrans 5 6-8 16, Kylea Lloyd 3 1-3 7, Whitney Warfel 3 2-2 8, Morgan Martin 0 0-0 0, Berkley Shelton 1 4-6 6, Skylar Baldwin 0 0-0 0, Ava Phillips 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 19-27 66.

3-point goals: New Palestine 2 (A. Miller, Gizzi); Pendleton Heights 1 (Brunnemer)