The New Palestine girls basketball team enters the sectional weekend looking to clinch a winning season and a spot in the title game for the fifth time in six years.
Friday: New Palestine Dragons (12-11) vs. Anderson Indians (8-14)
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Championship game: 7 p.m. Saturday
Site: Mt. Vernon High School (directions: https://goo.gl/maps/bA12xEXe4V5E7Sht7 )
Tickets: $7, available at door or online
Friday tickets: https://gofan.co/app/events/862177?schoolId=IN1588
Saturday tickets: https://gofan.co/app/events/862203?schoolId=IN1588
SETTING THE SCENE
The Dragons enter the sectional semifinal round to face Anderson, with the winner meeting either Mt. Vernon or Pendleton Heights.
Friday is the third all-time meeting between the Dragons and Indians, all taking place in the tourney. NP won 64-53 in the 2020 Richmond sectional final and 59-55 in the 2021 sectional opener at Muncie Central.
The Dragons are 11-3 in sectional games in five seasons under Coach Sarah Gizzi and have advanced to the championship game in four of the five years.
The Dragons are seeking their seventh sectional title. They have won championships in 1990, 1992, 1993, 2004, 2018 and 2020. Coach Gizzi played for the 1992 and 1993 teams and was the head coach of the 2018 and 2020 squads.
This is the second straight year and the third time in five seasons the sectional will have been played at Mt. Vernon. It was originally supposed to be held at Pendleton Heights, but water damage at PH caused a change. PH will host the 2024 sectional.
The Dragons advanced with a dominant defensive effort in the opening and closing minutes against Richmond. The Dragons opened the game on a 12-1 run and didn’t allow a field goal for the first seven minutes, then mirrored that in the fourth quarter with a 16-1 run that encompassed the final seven minutes to open up a 45-27 victory. Isabella Gizzi scored 21 points, hitting 10-of-10 from the line, and added eight rebounds. Vivian Miller added 10 points. Sadey Hughbanks contributed a career-high five rebounds, while Tylar Whitaker had four assists.
Gizzi’s eight-rebound performance gave her 505 for her career.
Gizzi became New Palestine’s basketball career scoring leader - encompasing boys and girls - during Wednesday’s game, as she improved her total to 1,629 points, eclipsing the total of 1,612 held by her brother, Maximus Gizzi, since 2020. She also holds the NPHS girls single-season (545) and single-game (40 points, 2021-22 vs. Southport) scoring records.
Gizzi’s 21-point game against Richmond marked the 18th time she has reached the 20-point mark this season. It was also her 77th career double-figure game.
A victory Friday would clinch an eighth consecutive winning season for the program, tying a record set from 1991-99.
At 23.7 ppg, Gizzi led the HHC in scoring in the regular season. She was also seventh in steals (2.8). Miller finished second in the league with 2.7 assists per game.
SCOUTING THE FIELD
Anderson is 8-14 under first-year head coach Joe Adams, who came to the Indians after three seasons at Franklin County. The Tribe has won two straight games, including a 63-52 victory over Muncie Central in Wednesday’s sectional opener. Junior Jaclyn Starks leads Anderson, averaging 14.2 points per game. Behind her, the Indians have a lot of balance, as sophomore Kennedy Brown scores 7.9 points per game, junior Makhile McWilliams tallies 7.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, while senior Zoe Allen scores 7.0 points per game.
Among the potential championship-game opponents for Friday’s winner, Pendleton Heights swept the Dragons in two games last season and won 57-35 on Jan. 13 in a game at PH. The Warfel sisters lead PH - sophomore Kaycie tallies 20.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, while senior Whitney adds 15.1 points and 5.8 rebounds.
Mt. Vernon has won four straight meetings over the Dragons over the last three seasons, with the Dragons’ last victory coming in the 2020 sectional. MV won a 54-28 decision over the Dragons Dec. 13. Junior Ellery Minch leads MV, scoring 16.5 points and grabbing 5.2 rebounds per game. Sophomore Kayonrae Kenny adds 8.4 points.