MUNCIE — Facing a long road trip in the middle of the week against a deliberate conference opponent, the Pendleton Heights Arabians were looking for a spark.
Nursing a 3-point lead late in the third quarter, Eli Pancol gave the Arabians just the spark they were looking for.
The sophomore scored nine points, had three rebounds and three steals, and added an exclamation point in the form of a thunderous dunk during a 17-0 Arabian run as Pendleton Heights remained unbeaten in conference play with a 49-30 win at Delta Wednesday.
Pendleton Heights (10-3) is the only remaining unbeaten team in conference play at 3-0. They will return home for a pair of weekend games, hosting Rushville Friday and Northeastern Saturday. Both contests are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
With a 27-24 lead late in the third quarter, Pancol started the decisive run with a rebound basket off an Arabian miss. Then, with just 2.9 seconds left, he stole the inbounds pass, took a couple dribbles, and buried a 25-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer to send Pendleton Heights into the fourth quarter with an eight-point advantage.
According to Arabian coach Kevin Bates, that was the key moment of the game.
“Our team is very emotional,” he said. “We can ride a lot of highs, and that 3 was huge. Then we got the ball to start the fourth quarter and we score. It’s really almost an eight-point turnaround, if they hit a 3, we’re only up two. But instead we’re up eight, and we score to go up 10. It was huge momentum.”
Senior Mark Albers and Pancol scored back-to-back driving layups to open the fourth quarter. Two Arabian possessions later, Pancol drove the right side of the lane and threw down a one-handed dunk that brought the Pendleton Heights fans to their feet.
“I saw the lane open up and I knew I was going to go dunk it,” said Pancol, who finished with 15 points and a game-high seven rebounds. “No matter who got in the way.”
The Arabians scored three straight layups following Pancol’s dunk, one from Albers and two by sophomore KarstenWindlan, and suddenly Pendleton Heights had a 44-24 lead, their biggest of the game.
The Arabians hit only one other 3-pointer besides Pancol’s buzzer beater, but did plenty of damage in the lane and driving to the basket. Bates said he built the game plan around an advantage he felt the Arabians had in that area.
“We like to play at a higher tempo, and Delta is more of a slower tempo team,” he said. “We had to keep reminding the kids to stick with the game plan. I thought we were going to be able to drive it. We didn’t have very many assists because the offense we chose to go with today was more of a dribble drive. I felt we did a good job of driving in and creating layups. Mark did a good job of attacking the basket.”
Albers attempted just four 3-point shots, making one, but converted seven shots driving to the basket and finished with a game-high 20 points.
Defensively, the Arabians held Delta (10-3), a team that shoots 50 percent from the floor on the season, to just 41 percent for the game. They held Tanner Lambert to 12 points, almost six below his season average.
“It was a great team effort,” Bates said. “It was, by far, the best team defense we’ve had in my two years as coach.”