GREENFIELD — They’ve played 92 times.

Tuesday’s renewal of the Hancock County boys basketball rivalry between New Palestine and Mt. Vernon may not have been the best of the bunch, but if you are categorizing Dragons-Marauders basketball battles, put this one in the ‘Classics’ folder.

After 15 lead changes, New Pal junior Ben Slagley hit a pair of free throws with 4.3 seconds left to give the Dragons a 58-56 lead.

A New Palestine foul with 1.7 seconds remaining gave Mt. Vernon an in-bounds play at midcourt. A pass toward the basket was intercepted by Slagley to end the quarterfinal round game of Class 4A Sectional 9.

The Dragons, ranked No. 15 in the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association poll, improved to 20-5, and will play Pendleton Heights (11-12) in a semifinal game 6 p.m. Friday at Greenfield-Central’s Dellen Automotive Gymnasium. The Dragons beat the Arabians 57-54 in a regular season game last month.

Mt. Vernon ends its season 15-9.

“I was a bit nervous for the first one,” Slagley said of his game-winning free throws. “After I hit the first one, the second one, I knew I was going to make it.”

New Palestine head coach Trent Whitaker described the final minutes, “Pretty chaotic.”

“What a great atmosphere and game between two great basketball teams,” Whitaker added. “Both teams threw punches throughout the game and luckily we were able to land the last one. Those last few minutes you’re just hoping it goes your way.”

The Dragons looked like they were close to putting the game away. They were eating clock and hitting free throws.

Junior Julius Gizzi hit a pair of free throws for a 52-49 advantage with 1:55 to go. Mt. Vernon turned the ball over on its next possession and then sent Gizzi back to the foul line.

But he missed both, opening the door for the Marauders with 57.8 seconds left.

Marauder sophomore Luke Ertel scored to cut the lead to one, 52-51 with 55 seconds to go. Gizzi was fouled again and was able to hit one of two free throws.

Ertel answered the Gizzi miss with a 3-pointer, giving Mt. Vernon a 54-53 lead with 26 seconds to go, but the Dragons equaled the Ertel triple with a quick transition basket and free throw.

Gizzi received a pass from Slagley, scored and added the free throw to give the Dragons a 56-54 lead with 19.3 remaining.

“It was one of those things, do you call timeout, or do you not?” Whitaker said. “The ball was out-letted to [point guard Moses Haynes], he threw it up the court to Ben. He had a 1-on-1 situation. Mt. Vernon did a nice job getting back. Ben got cut off and he spun back to the middle and Julius made an incredible cut to the rim and got the and-one.”

“My frustration, I thought defensively we did a nice job when we got the ball in the halfcourt we set our defense and made it difficult for them to run their stuff,” Mt. Vernon head coach Joe Bradburn said. “I felt good about that, the tough part, and we emphasized it this week, was the transition game. We just scored the basket to take the lead and then we lost a transition basket. The transition to get it back that quick, we have worked on that all year long, and knew they were really good at their transition game.”

It was Mt. Vernon’s turn to answer.

Sophomore R’mani Wells hit a deep jumper with his foot on the 3-point line to tie it, 56-56, with 7.9 seconds left.

After a timeout, New Pal set up a play in an attempt to get Gizzi, the second leading scorer in the state, open for a final shot in regulation. Slagley set a pick at midcourt and Mt. Vernon’s Brady Fitzgerald, who had held Gizzi under his scoring average for the second time this season, ran into Slagley and was called for the foul.

“[Fitzgerald] was speeding at me and I just took the charge,” Slagley said. “I knew they weren’t going to call a moving screen on me, I was set. They were going to either let it go through or he was going to get (the foul).”

“It’s tough to lose it at the end on a midcourt foul like that,” Bradburn added. “That’s part of the game, it is what it is. It could go either way. It didn’t go our way, and that makes it kind of tough and we had to scramble to try to get a last second shot to win it.”

Mt. Vernon’s Julien Smith led all scorers with 25 points. He had all 14 of the Marauders’ second-quarter points. Gizzi, who came in averaging 29.8 points per game, scored a Dragon-best 21. They were the only double-figure scorers.

“Julien was monumental [Tuesday]. He kept us in the game, he showed what talent he is and the skill level he has,” Bradburn added. “He has become a complete player. I’m so proud of how he developed this year.”

“I would say adrenaline-filled would be the best way to describe it,” Gizzi said of Tuesday’s game. “Two great student sections, two great teams. We got beat by 20 in the regular season, so we had to do whatever we could to win. After missing those two free throws and coming back and getting the and-one felt good, but missing those free throws will keep me up at night for awhile.”

Mt. Vernon loses just one senior from this year’s club, Fitzgerald. He had two big second-half 3-pointers and praised by Bradburn for his defensive work and leadership.

Mt. Vernon leads the all-time series 55-37, but New Palestine has the advantage in postseason games, 10-8.

“You talk about Sectional 9 being an incredible sectional with a lot of great teams (five teams are ranked or receiving votes) and close games, everybody got what they paid for tonight,” Whitaker said. “We were just lucky to get out of there with a win.”

“I’m proud of our team,” Bradburn added. “We played with our hearts and that’s what you ask of your kids when you go into battle, leave everything on the floor, and that’s what our guys did tonight.”

New Palestine 58, Mt. Vernon 56

New Palestine;14;17;8;19;—;58

Mt. Vernon;12;14;16;14;—;56

New Palestine (20-5): Julius Gizzi 6 8-11 21, Austin McMahan 2 1-2 5, Ben Slagley 2 5-6 9, Brady Armstrong 1 0-0 2, Moses Haynes 3 0-0 9, Keagan Harrison 2 0-0 4, Alex Guhl 1 0-0 2, Evan Darrah 2 0-0 6. Totals: 19 14-19 58.

Mt. Vernon (15-9): Brady Fitzgerald 2 0-0 6, Tanner Teschendorf 1 1-2 4, Tyler Davis 4 0-0 8, Luke Ertel 3 0-0 7, Julien Smith 10 1-1 25, Max Vise 1 0-1 2, Elijah Parra 0 0-0 0, R’mani Wells 1 2-2 4. Totals: 22 4-6 56.

3-point goals: New Palestine 6 (Haynes 3, Darrah 2, Gizzi). Mt. Vernon 8 (Smith 4, Fitzgerald 2, Teschendorf, Ertel)