The Hoosier Heritage Conference champion New Palestine boys basketball team opens sectional play Friday night with a 6 p.m. game at the Muncie Fieldhouse against arch-rival Mt. Vernon, the third consecutive year the Dragons and Marauders have met in the tournament.
The Dragons finished the regular season having won nine of its last 12 games and the school’s ninth conference championship.
The winner plays at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against either Richmond or Muncie Central for the sectional title.
CLASS 4A MUNCIE CENTRAL SECTIONAL
Friday: New Palestine Dragons (12-12) vs. Mt. Vernon Marauders (11-11), 6 p.m.
Saturday: NP/MV winner vs. Muncie Central/Richmond winner, 7:30 p.m.
- Site: Muncie Fieldhouse (directions)
- Admission: $6/single session, $10/all-session
SETTING THE SCENE
The Dragons begin their sectional title defense against their oldest rival, the Mt. Vernon Marauders. NP is seeking the ninth sectional championship in its history, having won titles in 1957, 1980, 1989, 1997, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2018. This will be the Dragons’ 103rd IHSAA tournament appearance and their 18th sectional venue.
New Palestine enters the sectional as the Hoosier Heritage Conference champion, winning its ninth conference title in school history and first since 2013. NP has won four of those championships in the HHC.
The semifinal matchup with Mt. Vernon will be the 15th tournament meeting between the Dragons and Marauders – the most-played opponent in NP’s history. It’s the third consecutive year they play in the tourney, having met in the 2018 and 2019 sectional title games. NP won the 2019 title game 61-43. The teams are 7-7 against each other in the tournament. NP also played Mt. Vernon’s pre-consolidation predecessors 20 times, going 4-9 vs. Mt. Comfort, 3-0 vs. McCordsville and 1-3 vs. Fortville. MV consolidated in 1963. This will be the 76th meeting between NP and MV, with the Dragons trailing 46-29.
New Palestine is 3-1 against Richmond over the last three seasons, including 1-0 in the sectional – a 68-50 victory in 2018. NP has never played Muncie Central.
The Dragons enter the sectional as Hoosier Heritage Conference champs, going 5-2 in league play. After starting the season 2-8, NP won 10 of its last 14 games to even its record.
Guard Maximus GIzzi finished the regular season as the Hoosier Heritage Conference’s leading scorer, tallying 23.9 ppg. He is also the league’s top free throw shooter, converting at 83.0 percent (151-182). Senior forward Dawson Eastes finished third in the HHC in rebounding (8.3 rpg) and ninth in scoring (13.4 ppg). Junior Matthew Brown was ninth in rebounding (4.5 rpg). Freshman guard Blaine Nunnally (3.5) was fourth and Gizzi (3.4) seventh in assists.
Gizzi tallied 20 points to lead the Dragons to a 57-38 victory over Mid-State Conference co-champ Greenwood last Friday. He was 9-11 from the line in the contest. Sophomore Steele Brasfield had an efficient 13 points – hitting 5-5 from the floor, 2-2 from 3-point range and 1-2 from the line. Eastes tallied seven rebounds. NP outscored Greenwood 23-10 in the fourth quarter to pull away to the victory. The Dragons shot 53 percent (18-34) from the floor in the win.
Gizzi has 1,578 career points and is NP’s career scoring leader. He has tallied 574 this season. He has tallied 20 or more points in 20 of the Dragons’ 24 games. His 41 points against Whiteland – which included 21-23 from the line – was the third-highest single-game total in school history.
Eastes enters the sectional having tallied five double-doubles, most recently with 17 points and 10 boards Feb. 14 against Shelbyville.
Mt. Vernon enters having defeated Anderson 71-50 in the opening round. Sophomore guard Armon Jarrard tallied 22 points in the Marauders’ victory. Razhaun Wells scored 17 points and Ahmad Jarrard scored 14 points. The Dragons dropped a 79-65 decision to Mt. Vernon Feb. 21.
Richmond beat NP 60-55 Jan. 3 at Tiernan Center. Gizzi tallied 24 points and Eastes 12 in that contest. Andrew Kroft led Richmond with 21 points. The Red Devils held off Greenfield-Central 54-48 Wednesday for their 12th straight victory, led by 19 points from Koream Jett and 11 from Tytan Harris. After starting the year 3-7, Richmond has gone 14-1 in 2020 under second-year head coach Shabaz Khaliq.
Muncie Central advanced with a 67-54 victory over Pendleton Heights. Chandler Thompson’s team has won three of its last five. Victor Young spearheaded the victory over PH with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Kamerin Jackson added 14 and Dylan Stafford 12. The Bearcats have won an IHSAA record eight state titles, most recently in 1988.