PENDLETON — The Saturday night Hoosier Heritage Conference contest was emotional, contentious and very physical. And Karsten Windlan wouldn’t have it any other way.
The sophomore led five teammates in double figures with 21 points and had a direct hand in the last 12 points for Pendleton Heights as it held off a Shelbyville rally and beat the Golden Bears 82-75.
Shelbyville fell to 7-6 (1-3, Hoosier Heritage Conference), while Pendleton Heights improved to 9-3 (3-0, HHC) setting up a battle of unbeatens Wednesday at Delta (2-0, HHC).
PHHS shot 62 percent for the game from the floor and built a double-digit lead in the first half, leading 38-25 at intermission. The lead grew to 19 at 46-27 on a 3-point shot from senior Mark Albers in the third quarter, and the Arabians were able to maintain an 18-point advantage at 59-41 heading to the fourth quarter.
Coach Kevin Bates said he knew his team was going to need that cushion against a team like Shelbyville.
“I told the kids in walk-through that this is the third-best offensive team we’ve seen this year,” he said. “Carmel, Hamilton Southeastern and them. I knew they could score in a hurry, I knew they could shoot the 3 and their five starters average in double figures.”
Led by sophomore Zach Kuhn, who led all scorers with 34 points, the Golden Bears attempted a fourth-quarter comeback. Kuhn scored 14 in the fourth quarter as Shelbyville made 10 of 15 shots down the stretch and added seven points at the foul line for 34 points in the period.
“For three quarters, the game plan worked,” he said. “We were very sound defensively, but I have to give them credit, they fought all the way to the end. That’s the sign of a good team.”
Shelbyville closed the gap to just six at 70-64 when Windlan took over. In the closing moments, he made six of eight free throws and found senior Brandon Helpling, who had 10 points on the night, three times under the basket for key layups as the Arabians held off the comeback.
“Brandon is always in a good position and in the right spot,” Windlan said. “When I find him, I know he’s going to make the layup. I found him a couple times wide open because they helped off him.”
Early in the game, Windlan got hot from outside. On the night, he connected three times on five attempts from behind the 3-point line, including twice in the first half. He said he could tell early on that it was going to be a good night.
“If my first shot goes in and it feels good, I know it’s going to be a really good game,” he said. “I felt that they didn’t take me away — they guarded Mark really good. I’m a really good scorer, so I just did what I do.”
Albers was held to 14 on the night, six points below his average. But the Golden Bears’ focus on him opened things up for his teammates, including sophomore Eli Pancol, who scored 20 and led all players with 17 rebounds, and junior Justin Shupe, who scored 10 points in just his second game of the season.
“We thought all along that Justin could be a big part of this game,” Bates said. “Justin and his ability to handle the ball, his athleticism to get into the lane and finish and make plays — he was a big part of the game plan. He was outstanding.”
The game featured 35 total fouls, and the teams combined to shoot 46 free throws on the night. The physicality of the game was no surprise to Bates.
“Shelbyville has always been physical,” he said. “In my 19 years here, I’ve never known a conference game to be a finesse game. It seems like all our conference teams have some physicality, but Shelbyville is a good rebounding team for the lack of size they have. They’re hard-nosed kids and great basketball players.”
Windlan, who stands 5-foot-8 and is listed at 135 pounds in the game programs, is not shy about attacking bigger and stronger players and attacking the basket.
“I love playing physical because I can be physical right back,” he said. “And I love it when it gets chippy, because that makes me want to win even more. My teammates did a pretty good job of keeping their emotions in check, and we won the game.
“And that’s all that matters.”
The Arabians also won a dramatic junior varsity contest Saturday. After sophomore Cole Dunham tied the game at the end of regulation, he found sophomore Ryan Noel for the game-winning layup in overtime as PHHS handed Shelbyville a 44-42 defeat. Sophomore Christian Conkling led PHHS with 14 points, and freshman Tristan Ross added 12. Noel led the Arabians with eight rebounds, and Dunham handed out five assists.
Vs. New Palestine
Fresh off the Madison County championship, the Pendleton Heights Arabians did not let up Friday as they played host to struggling conference foe New Palestine.
Albers scored 27 points, and the Arabians controlled the boards and the Dragon offense, as Pendleton Heights scored a 64-50 win.
Pendleton improved to 9-3 overall (2-0, Hoosier Heritage Conference), while New Palestine dropped to 2-9 (0-4, HHC).
The Arabians took a double-digit lead late in the first quarter at 19-9 on a 3-pointer from Albers, his third of six makes from long range on the night. The Dragons battled back to close within four points at 26-22, late in the second quarter, on a 3 of their own from sophomore Matthew True.
But a layup from Albers and a dunk from Pancol started a 16-4 run that lasted into the third quarter to break the game open. The Pendleton Heights lead would grow to as high as 23 at 60-37, and the Arabians were never seriously threatened following the run.
Bates said the Dragons posed potential problems for his squad defensively. Although New Palestine is a young team, starting a freshman and two sophomores, all five starters can score. Bates was happy the Arabians held the Dragons to just 36 percent shooting.
“We’re getting better,” he said. “That’s a good offensive team — they put five guys on the floor that can make plays. They can shoot it; they can drive; they can score. They scored 77 against New Castle, and they scored 75 their last game. I can’t say enough about our defense, holding them to just four second-chance points.”
The key to limiting the second-chance points was a 43-32 edge for Pendleton Heights in rebounding, led by sophomore Eli Pancol’s 17 boards. Sophomore Damieon Warrum added seven off the bench.
“Last year, it seems like we only outrebounded teams once or twice,” Bates said. “We outrebounded the entire county in the tournament and that continued tonight. Not only are they buying into the defensive effort, positioning and mental effort it takes, but we’re putting a stamp on it by gathering the rebounds and limiting them to no second-chance points.”
The night featured another sharpshooting performance from Albers, who connected on six of 10 from behind the arc. Bates said he can’t help but smile when his senior captain gets into a groove.
“You just let it go,” he said. “You don’t want to take him out of his rhythm. He is a special type of player, and when he gets hot, it’s fun to watch. Sometimes as a coach I become a fan.”
Although Albers was the only Arabian in double figures, he had plenty of balanced offensive support. Pancol scored nine. Windlan, despite an off night shooting, scored eight, but handed out seven assists and had four steals on defense. Helpling also scored eight.
The Arabians turned the ball over just six times while forcing 15 Dragon miscues.
The Arabian junior varsity team was also victorious Friday with a 50-36 win versus the Dragons. Three players scored in double figures; Justin Shupe led the way with 14, Luke Drye scored 12, and Tristan Ross added 11. Ryan Noel and Drew Wilson led PHHS with seven rebounds each, and Shupe also handed out four assists.