NEW PALESTINE — The physicality of both New Palestine and Greenwood was on full display at New Palestine High School Wednesday night.
Fueled by a big third quarter, the visiting Woodmen (2-1) defeated the Dragons (2-1) 46-37 in a non-conference girls basketball matchup.
After a first quarter that was controlled entirely by the Dragons, Greenwood responded in a big way.
Down 14-5 after the opening quarter, runs of 13-2 and 15-0 paved the way to the Woodmen victory.
“I think in that first quarter, we just had a little bit of nerves. Traditionally, our games against New Pal are very physical,” Greenwood head coach Justin Bennett said. “I felt like they came out very physical and rattled us a little bit, but once we got out of that quarter, I just told the girls to play tough, and that we had to match their toughness. And I thought they did just that.”
The 15-0 run — led by Emily Metzger and Ella Stivers — opened the second half and allowed Greenwood to turn a two-point deficit into a 31-18 lead.
“When we went into half, we just talked to the girls about matching their energy and effort,” Bennett said. “Coming out of halftime, we just wanted to make a statement that we could play, and we did. They came out and played hard.”
Bennett wasn’t the only coach that expected a physical game, and while Greenwood responded to the challenge, New Palestine coach Sarah Gizzi’s squad did not.
“Greenwood plays physical defense with a lot of ball pressure. I think they just sped us up and that hadn’t happened yet,” Gizzi said. “We have some young, inexperienced players, but it also affected our veteran players. I think sometimes when that starts happening, the wheels just fly off the cart. They came out and gave us a good punch, and we just did not respond well.”
New Palestine found success in the opening quarter with a press defense and the ability to force Greenwood turnovers, but foul trouble to multiple players, including senior Isabella Gizzi, forced the Dragons to abandon that gameplan.
“We got in a little bit of foul trouble, so I pulled back a little bit. I don’t play a deep rotation, so we pulled things back a little bit there,” Gizzi said. “I tried to throw in some zone, and they scored five straight points. We were still able to be in the game after that big run, but we just had too many mistakes tonight.”
While the Woodmen cleaned up their mistakes after the opening quarter, the Dragons spiraled, turning the ball over a total of 14 times in the second and third quarters.
“The ball pressure was a big issue tonight. We didn’t see that in the first two games,” Gizzi said. “They always have strong players, and we told the girls they needed to be ready for that, but we clearly weren’t ready.”
That, along with Greenwood’s ability to make clutch shots, was the key down the stretch.
New Palestine was able to cut the lead to 35-30 with just under two minutes to go in the game, but clutch three-pointers from Lily Howe and Breanna Pierce all but sealed the game.
Howe led the way for the Woodmen with 13 points, while Stivers added 12 and Metzger scored 11.
For the Dragons, Isabella Gizzi led with 22 points.