By Brady Extin | Daily Reporter

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GREENFIELD — The battle of two undefeated boys basketball teams and Hancock County and Hoosier Heritage Conference rivals lived up to the hype Friday night.

The visiting New Palestine Dragons defeated the Greenfield-Central Cougars 53-46 at Dellen Automotive Gymnasium to advance to 4-0 on the season and 1-0 in HHC play.

G-C dropped to 3-1 and 0-1 in the HHC.

“Any win at this point of time is important, especially when it’s a conference game. We set out to have goals, and that’s to win the conference. You can’t win the conference unless you beat conference opponents,” New Palestine head coach Trent Whitaker said. “Greenfield is a heck of a ball team, and we were able to squeak one out there.”

A back-and-forth first half ended with the Cougars leading 24-19 at the break.

Following halftime, the Dragons took control.

Foul trouble for G-C’s second leading scorer Braylon Mullins paved the way for the Dragons to grab the lead.

After scoring nine points in the first half, Mullins was forced to the bench for nearly the entirety of the third quarter after picking up his fourth foul.

With him out, and the New Palestine defense able to focus on Dylan Moles, the Cougars’ offense stalled.

“That just allows them to key more on Dylan. Braylon, Tyler [Kerkhof] and Dylan are our key backcourt guys, so when teams take one of those guys away and can key on our shooters, it makes things tough offensively,” Greenfield-Central head coach Luke Meredith said.

The Cougars were outscored 15-9 in the third, and the Dragons ended the quarter on a 6-0 run to take a 34-33 lead into the closing quarter.

“We didn’t really change a whole lot, we just started clamping down. Our helpers were big. We had to stay with Moles and Kerkhof, their two shooters, but the other guys could kind of float a little bit,” Whitaker said. “Dylan’s a great player and started off very strong, but we were able to clamp down a little bit in the second half and our defense got us rolling.”

Although Moles added 23 points on the night, slowing him down in the second half was key to New Palestine’s success, and Dragons guard Blaine Nunnally did just that.

Moles was held to just three points in the third quarter.

“Bryant didn’t hold him to zero points, but he fatigued him and as the stretch went on, those long shots just came up a bit short,” Whitaker said.

“It was physical, and the officials allowed it to be physical,” Meredith added. “I think they wore us down and foul trouble hurt us. Bryant’s defense and physicality was something that wore on Dylan.”

While the defense tightened up in the second half, the New Pal offense found new life as well.

The Dragons outscored the Cougars 34-22 in the second-half.

“We were pretty smart when we hit shots in the second,” Whitaker said. “Against a zone, you can’t just stand there, which is what we did quite a bit in the first half. Once kids see shots go down, it makes that hoop look a little bit bigger.”

The Dragons opened the fourth quarter with three quick 3-pointers — their only 3-pointers of the game — from Blaine Nunnally, Bryant Nunnally and Julius Gizzi to open the lead up to 43-33.

“We hit three in a row there quickly, and that was the key to the ballgame,” Whitaker said.

Ian Stephens and Blaine Nunnally led the Dragons with 17 points each.

Moles’s 23 led the Cougars.

“I think New Pal is the best team in the conference and the county right now, so it’s a great measuring stick for where we are. They’re a great program and just a really good team,” Meredith said. “I’m proud of the way our guys competed, but it’s a tough loss. I thought we had our opportunities, but just not good enough tonight.”

New Palestine 53, Greenfield-Central 46

New Palestine;10;9;15;19;-;53


New Palestine (4-0, 1-0): Ian Stephens 5 7-8 17, Blaine Nunnally 6 4-7 17, Ben Slagley 4 1-5 9, Eian Roudebush 1 2-3 4, Julius Gizzi 1 0-0 3, Bryant Nunnally 1 0-0 3, Moses Haynes 0 0-0 0, Kendall Hill 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 14-23 53.

Greenfield-Central (3-1, 0-1): Dylan Moles 7 4-4 23, Braylon Mullins 4 0-0 9, Tyler Kerkhoff 1 0-1 2, Braden Robertson 2 0-1 4, Will DeJarnett 1 0-1 2, Jacob Hinton 2 2-3 6. Totals: 17 6-10 46.

3-point goals: New Palestine 3 (Bl. Nunnally 1, Gizzi 1, Br. Nunnally 1); Greenfield-Central 6 (Moles 5, Mullins 1)