INDIANAPOLIS — The enjoyable ride of the winningest boys basketball season in school history came to an end Saturday.
New Palestine, winners of a school single-season record 23 ballgames along with Hoosier Heritage Conference and Muncie Central Sectional titles, ran into its strongest foe in the Class 4A Regional 5 championship at Southport Fieldhouse.
The Brownsburg Bulldogs led by double figures at the end of each quarter, but the first, when they led by nine, and defeated the Dragons, decisively, 66-39.
Brownsburg (21-4) will move on to the New Castle Semi-State to play Jennings County (24-2) 10 a.m. this Saturday.
New Palestine came in ranked No. 14 in the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association (all classification) poll and No. 10 in the Associated Press Class 4A rankings. Brownsburg was No. 7 in the IBCA ratings and No. 8 in AP.
The Dragons finished the year 23-3.
They set a school record to start the season, winning their first 15 games. They didn’t suffer a loss until Jan. 30, a one-point decision to Lawrence North. At the time, the Dragons and top-ranked Ben Davis, 30-0 and also playing in the New Castle Semi-State, were the only remaining teams in the state still unbeaten.
“I hate it for our senior class that’s been incredibly important to this program,” New Palestine coach Trent Whitaker said. “(With 70 wins over four years), that has got to be up there … It’s not about this game right now, you put the game behind us. The kids put in a lot of time and effort and battled every night for our program and for the community.”
Led by 6-foot-6 senior Ian Stephens, the Dragons got off to a good start in the regional title game. After a 30-second opening possession of strong ball movement, Stephens finished it off with a 3-pointer.
Brownsburg followed with the next six points, but Stephens scored again, and was fouled. Unable to convert the three-point play, the Dragons trailed just 6-5 with 4:34 left in the opening period. A Stephens’ dunk looked to give New Pal some momentum after another Bulldogs’ mini-run, cutting the margin to 10-7 with 3:25 to go, but it didn’t slow Brownsburg, which followed with a 9-0 spurt.
New Palestine trailed by double figures much of the second quarter, it cut it to six when two Blaine Nunnally free throws followed a Moses Haynes’ trey, but the Dragons were unable to get the deficit under double figures the rest of the afternoon.
Blaine Nunnally led the Dragon scoring Saturday with 11 points. Stephens finished with nine and sophomore Ben Slagley finished with eight points.
“This is the most fun I’ve had in a season in a long, long time,” Blaine Nunnally said. “You can’t thank people enough for what they’ve done for you and what the community has done for you. They’re in good hands with the young guys coming up. I want to thank all the seniors. It’s a tough way to go out, you never want to go out, but unfortunately only one team can win the tournament. Most teams are going to face this battle, you just have to be there for your brothers.”
Brownsburg had three double-figure scorers, led by junior Grant Porath with 20 points. He was 9 of 11 from the field. Kanon Catchings, a 6-7 junior committed to Purdue University, had 17 points. Elhadj Diallo scored 12.
“They just have so many weapons,” Stephens said of the Bulldogs. “Their ballclub is so good. You pay so much attention to Catchings and Diallo. Catchings didn’t kill us in the first half. We were happy about that, but at the same time you look up and it’s a 16-point game.
“It’s hard to know what to do in that situation because everybody was playing well. That’s what they are, a great team with all five, six guys they play.”
Playing by the motto, “Gritty, Not Pretty,” the Dragons played hard-nosed hoops from November to March. They went unbeaten in the HHC, finishing 7-0, and beat rival and two-time defending sectional champion Mt. Vernon, to win the Muncie Central Sectional.
The Dragons graduate six seniors, including starters Blaine and Bryant Nunnally, Stephens and Eian Roudebush. Kendall Hill, another senior, was often one of the first players off the bench. Daniel Tippit, who joined the team this year after a stellar campaign as the football team’s quarterback, rounded out the large group from the Class of 2023.
“You have to give a lot of credit to the seniors, not just Blaine and Ian (our top scorers), but Bryant (with his defense), we’re going to miss him as much as our scorers. I appreciate everything (all of the seniors) have done for our program over the last four years. They’ve put New Palestine basketball on the map,” Whitaker said.
The Dragons graduate a lot of minutes-played, but they return three key sophomores that have gained valuable experience. Slagley, is a two-year starter. Julius Gizzi and Haynes, sophomore cousins, came off the bench and sparked the team on numerous occasions throughout the season.
“These are my brothers. I know that’s cliché, but we’ve been going at it for five, six months,” Stephens said. “To be able to share all that, a sectional title, a conference title, these records, all of that stuff, and with the coaching staff, it’s been great. To be able to do it all with them in my last year, it’s so special. We’re not disappointed, just so proud.”
Brownsburg 66, New Palestine 39
New Palestine (23-3): Ian Stephens 4 0-2 9, Eian Roudebush 1 0-0 2, Ben Slagley 3 2-4 8, Bryant Nunnally 0 0-0 0, Blaine Nunnally 3 5-7 11, Julius Gizzi 1 0-0 3, Moses Haynes 2 0-0 6, Kendall Hill 0 0-0 0, Brady Armstrong 0 0-0 0, Keagan Harrison 0 0-0 0, Landon Seib 0 0-0 0, Alex Guhl 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 7-13 39.
Brownsburg (21-4): Kanon Catchings 6 3-4 17, Grant Porath 9 2-2 20, Brendan Lattimer 1 1-2 3, Elhadj Diallo 4 3-4 12, Drew Thompson 1 0-0 2, Spencer Porath 2 4-4 8, JD Lynch 0 0-0 0, Bishop Bambo 0 0-0 0, Jake Wilson 0 0-0 0, Michael Addison 1 0-0 2, Brandon Addison 0 0-0 0, Camren Reich 0 2-2 2. Totals: 24 15-18 66.
3-point goals: New Palestine 4 (Haynes 2, Stephens, Gizzi); Brownsburg 3 (Catchings 2, Diallo)