The New Palestine girls basketball team staged a furious comeback from an 11-point halftime deficit to forge a fourth-quarter tie, but Whiteland scored the game’s last 10 points to beat the Dragons 47-37 Wednesday in the Class 4A Center Grove sectional opener.
The Dragons fell behind 17-7 in the game’s first 10 minutes, and trailed by as much as 25-13 late in the first half. A late first-half basket by Katlyn Keele helped cut the deficit, but the Dragons trailed 27-16 at the break.
They came out with renewed defensive and offensive energy in the third, starting with an 8-0 run and scoring on their first five possessions. Natalie Kehrt and Haley Stratman hit 3-pointers to start the half, followed up by a steal-and-score by Kehrt that cut the Whiteland lead to 27-24. Whiteland pushed its edge back to 35-27, but Stratman hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the deficit to 35-33 going into the fourth.
On the first two possessions of the fourth, Kehrt and Raegan McMurray scored – with Whiteland’s Mackenzie Blazek answering – to tie the game at 37-37. A steal by McMurray looked to give the Dragons the lead, but a close call went the Warriors’ way. NP’s defense forced four straight misses, but the Warriors’ defense answered with stops on their end, and Whiteland broke the tie with two free throws with 4:32 left, and then pushed the lead to 41-37 with an inside shot in the final three minutes. The Warriors then extended the lead at the line.
McMurray led the way with 13 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two assists. Stratman added nine points, all on third-quarter 3-pointers to rally the Dragons. Kehrt had eight points and three rebounds. Keele had five points, seven rebounds and two assists. Carly Hackler had two points, five rebounds and five assists. Haley Harrison added two steals.
The Dragons finished the season with a 16-7 record, the most wins in a season since 2003-04. They were the Hoosier Heritage Conference runners-up, the highest finish in the league since 2012. The Dragons’ senior class of Brooke Burgess, Carly Hackler, Katlyn Keele, Natalie Kehrt and Haley Stratman helped lead the program to a remarkable turnaround, improving their win total from three as freshmen, where nearly all played big minutes, to nine, then 12, then 16 wins. They leave a tremendous legacy for the program, both on and off the court.