The New Palestine boys basketball team seized control of Friday’s sectional semifinal game quickly.
The Dragons scored on their first seven possessions Friday, opening the contest against Connersville on a 16-point run. NP never looked back in a 56-47 victory to propel the Dragons into Saturday’s sectional championship game.
NP (16-8) will face Mt. Vernon (11-11) in Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. title game at Richmond’s Tiernan Center. MV beat Richmond 49-44 in Friday’s second semifinal.
The Dragons got started quickly, with Maximus Gizzi hitting a pull-up jumper on the first possession. He and Dylan Romine drained 3-pointers on the next two trips, giving NP a quick 8-0 lead. Matthew True, Romine, Kyle King and Jack Walker followed with buckets to push the edge to 16-0 before Connersville finally scored with 2:34 left in the first quarter.
NP then scored the game’s next seven points – punctuated by a True 3-pointer – to push the edge to 23-2. NP led 30-10 at halftime. A True basket made it 32-10 after the first possession of the third quarter, but Connersville slowly began cutting into the lead. NP went the rest of the quarter without a field goal – but hit 5-of-8 from the line – while Noah Belt scored seven points and Ethan Smith hit a 3-pointer to bring the Spartans within nine. Gizzi hit two free throws to push the lead to 11 at the end of the quarter.
Connersville then began the fourth quarter on a 14-3 run to cut the Dragons’ lead to 40-35 – with NP’s points coming on free throws by True. With the lead having been narrowed as close as it had been since the opening two minutes, Romine confidently drained a 3-pointer, King dove to force a steal, followed by a driving shot by Gizzi. True added two free throws to cap a 7-0 run that pushed the lead back to 12, at 47-35. Connersville cut it to six in the final minute, but the Dragons’ 12-of-18 free throw shooting in the final quarter sealed the victory.
True led the Dragons with 17 points. He hit 10-of-12 from the line. Romine added 15 points, including two 3-pointers and six fourth-quarter points. His layup in the final minute helped put the game away after the Spartans cut the lead to six. Gizzi added 13 points. King scored six – all in the first half. Walker and Eric Roudebush scored two each. Maxen Hook had one point.
Noah Belt scored 19 second-half points to lead the Spartans (16-9). Ethan Smith scored 17, with 12 coming after halftime.
Notes: Gizzi and True both crossed the 950-point barrier in the contest. Gizzi now has 959 points, True 950. They each also hit their 300th career free throws in the contest. … The Dragons are now 7-1 all-time at the Tiernan Center, with all but one of those meetings coming in the last two seasons. … The title game is a rematch of last year’s championship game, in which an incredible fourth-quarter Dragon comeback fell just short in a 60-57 loss. Saturday’s game will be the 76th meeting between the Dragons and Marauders and the 14th IHSAA tournament meeting. … The Dragons are seeking their eighth sectional title. NP last cut down the nets in 2012. … The winner of Saturday’s game will face either Avon or Mooresville in the 10 a.m. semifinal of the March 9 Southport regional. … New Pal Radio coverage of Saturday’s title game will begin at 6:50 p.m.