NEW PALESTINE — After trading buckets for the first three minutes of the game, the New Palestine Dragons took off and didn’t look back.
A 17-0 first-quarter run was the difference in New Palestine’s 75-51 victory over Richmond in the boys basketball team’s season-opening game at New Palestine High School Wednesday.
The Dragons scored 46 first-half points and led by 26 at the break in an impressive opening 16 minutes where they shot 65 percent from the field (15 of 23), 60 percent from 3-point range (6 of 10) and committed only one turnover.
Senior Ian Stephens led all scorers with 24 points. He had 17 in the first half.
After losing to the Red Devils in last year’s season opener in Richmond, Stephens said it was important to open with a victory.
“It’s relieving,” Stephens said. “We don’t have to play another first game because we’re not trying to get our first win. When you start 0-1, you’re still trying to get that first win, you’re still scared about some things. To get that first win is great.”
Stephens, a 6-foot-6 three-year varsity veteran, was one of four Dragons to score in double figures. Four-year vet Blaine Nunnally followed with 15 points.
“That’s Blaine and Ian just having the experience. They came out definitely focused,” New Palestine head coach Trent Whitaker said. “With last year’s start that we had going over there and getting beat, they talked about it in the locker room before the game that we need to come out focused. That first quarter was fun basketball.”
Two youngsters joined the vets in double digits. Sophomores Julius Gizzi and Ben Slagley had 14 and 12, respectively.
It was Gizzi’s first varsity game playing significant minutes. Slagley was a starter most of last season.
During the Dragons 17-0 run, five different players scored. A Slagley bucket tied it 8-8. Senior Eian Roudebush and Nunnally followed with back-to-back 3s. Stephens scored inside and Gizzi followed with a 3-pointer. Stephens had the final four points with a bucket and a pair of free throws.
“The best thing was our shot selection,” Whitaker added on his club’s great start. “I didn’t think anybody forced any shots. We’ve talked about that quite a bit. We’ve got a few kids that can score. It’s going to be a deal where they need to make sure they share the basketball and they did. When they share the basketball and play like that we’re going to be tough to guard.”
New Palestine’s lead grew to 31 points early in the second half.
Not letting off the gas, senior Bryant Nunnally opened the third quarter with a trey. Stephens followed with a dunk and Blaine Nunnally scored off of a steal to make it 53-22 with 5:52 left in the third quarter.
“We just got in to our flow and knocked down shots and played great defense,” Stephens added.
Stephens finished 9 of 11 from the field and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Richmond cut it to 17 in the fourth quarter, but were unable to get any closer. Cedric Horton helped rally the Red Devils. He had 15 of his team-best 17 points in the second half, including 11 in the third quarter. Mason Carpenter scored 15.
Though the Red Devils won last year’s opener, it was New Palestine’s second straight win over Richmond. They met in a semifinal game of last season’s Greenfield-Central Sectional. The Dragons, led by Stephens with 21 points, won 76-58.
The Dragons return to action Dec. 2 with a home game against county rival Eastern Hancock. The Royals won their opener Wednesday at Centerville, 78-44.
New Palestine 75, Richmond 51
Richmond (0-1): Cedric Horton 7 2-2 17, Ryder Cate 3 1-3 8, Sam Reising 1 2-2 4, Mason Carpenter 4 3-4 11, Gunner Kovach 1 0-0 3, Gavin Haynes 2 0-0 4, Zion Deloney 0 0-0 0, Deante Smith 0 0-1 0, Preston Hunter 0 4-4 4, Kainin Turner 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 12-16 51.
New Palestine (1-0): Ian Stephens 9 5-8 24, Eian Roudebush 2 1-2 7, Ben Slagley 5 2-2 12, Bryant Nunnally 1 0-0 3, Blaine Nunnally 5 3-4 15, Kendall Hill 0 0-0 0, Julius Gizzi 5 1-2 14, Moses Haynes 0 0-0 0, Daniel Tippit 0 0-0 0, Brady Armstrong 0 0-0 0. Totals: 27 12-18 75.
3-point goals: Richmond 3 (Horton, Cate, Kovach); New Palestine 9 (Gizzi 3, Bl. Nunnally 2, Roudebush 2, Br. Nunnally, Stephens)