The New Palestine girls basketball team had struggled to find its offense and stared at a 13-point deficit as the fourth quarter began in Friday's sectional semifinal game.
But then Vivian Miller drained a 3-pointer, Allie Blum had a steal, Miller hit a shot in the lane and Blum then drilled a triple. Suddenly, the Dragons were within five and knocking on the door a minute and a half into the frame.
The avalanche continued - defense forcing turnovers, leading to baskets on the other end, and the Dragons rallied to beat Anderson 50-45 in the Mt. Vernon sectional semifinal. The Dragons (13-11) advance to face host Mt. Vernon (18-6) in Saturday's 7 p.m. sectional championship game. MV defeated Pendleton Heights 29-25 in Friday's opening game.
After that quick eight-point burst, the Dragons continued to claw back. Miller and Isabella Gizzi both hit shots to draw NP within one. Gizzi then tied the game with a free throw and after another Anderson turnover, drew a foul and hit two more foul shots to put NP up 45-43. After another defensive stop, Miller then dribbled through the entire Anderson defense to get herself an open layup and push the lead to four. Anderson answered with a basket to stop the 17-0 run with 1:49 left, but the Dragons added on from there. Blum rebounded a miss and was fouled, hitting one of the two free throws. After another Anderson miss, Gizzi hit two foul shots with 22 seconds left to push the lead to five.
The Dragons outscored Anderson 20-2 in the fourth quarter - following a 16-3 fourth quarter in Wednesday's 45-27 victory over Richmond. The two points allowed tied for the fewest surrendered by the Dragons in a quarter this season.
The Dragons led 3-2 after a triple by Blum in the first quarter, but Anderson answered with a quick run and took an 18-9 lead after one, led by junior Jacelynn Starks, who scored nine points in the frame. The Dragons were struggling from the field, but managed to take advantage of Anderson's high pressure defense to draw fouls. Gizzi, who had been held to one point in the opening frame, repeatedly drew fouls in the second quarter and hit 8-of-9 from the line in the frame, scoring 10 points. She hit six straight free throws to draw the Dragons within five at 22-17, but Starks immediately answered with back-to-back 3-pointers to push Anderson's lead to double digits. It was eventually 30-17 before Gizzi hit two late free throws to cut the deficit to 11 at halftime.
Anderson again limited the Dragons, as Gizzi scored nine third-quarter points, but the Dragons struggled from the field in the frame. Anderson point guard Zoe Allen scored five points on a pair of drives to push the Indians' lead to 13 on multiple occasions, and at 43-30 after three before the Dragons seized control.
Gizzi led the way with 27 points, hitting 16-of-20 from the line. Miller added 12, scoring nine in the fourth quarter. Blum tallied seven, including a pair of 3-pointers. Tylar Whitaker and Sadey Hughbanks scored two points each. Kylee Beranek, Ella Holman and Nevaeh Gebhart all gave the Dragons quality minutes off the bench. The Dragons' defense forced 23 Anderson turnovers, including 15 in the second half.
Starks led Anderson with 19 points, but she was held to four points after halftime.
The Dragons are in the sectional championship game for the fifth time in six years under coach Sarah Gizzi and are seeking the seventh sectional title in school history.