‘Simple’ plan helps Arabians check Knights


PENDLETON — Coach Kevin Bates expected his team to be challenged by the state’s fifth-ranked Class 2A team Saturday. An athletic team with size, the Northeastern Knights posed any number of problems for the Arabians.

Bates came up with an understated approach to combat the various defensive looks the Knights would give him: Keep it simple.

Sophomore Karsten Windlan scored 11 of his 22 points during a 20-4 run as Pendleton Heights played a nearly flawless second quarter, boosting the Arabians to a 71-54 win against Northeastern.

Trailing 18-13 after the first quarter, Pendleton Heights (12-3) scored eight points on their first three second-quarter possessions. Three-point shots by Windlan and senior Mark Albers were sandwiched around a top-of-the-key jumper from junior Justin Shupe as the Arabians surged into the lead, one they would not relinquish the remainder of the game.

Windlan hit two more 3s and a pair of free throws to cap the run, while the Arabian offense committed zero turnovers in the quarter.

Bates said the key was sticking to the game plan.

“Northeastern is very well coached and they have a lot of great players,” he said. “They threw things at us that we haven’t seen. A box and one, a 1-3-1, a 1-2-2, trapping and pressing. We were prepared, and we had counters for it. In the game plan, we wanted to make the simple pass and the simple play. If we make enough of those, we’ll get great looks. We didn’t make enough of those in the first quarter, but in the second quarter, I really felt like we did, which translated into great looks, great shots and great attacks at the basket. And with no turnovers, we were able to score.”

The challenge defensively for the Arabians was containing Tyler Smith, the star guard for Northeastern (11-5). While he did score 24 on the night, Smith had to make tough shots in the process, and his teammates were not able to provide much support, a credit to the Arabian team defense.

“The game plan was to hound Tyler Smith as much as possible,” Bates said. “I thought Eston (Stull) did a phenomenal job on him. He had to work and earn all 24 points. We told Eston that (Smith) might still get 30, but what we couldn’t do was let everybody else score, because we’re going to score more than 30.”

The Knights were held to just 33 percent shooting in the second half after hitting at a 47 percent clip in the first.

“I thought it was a great team defensive effort tonight,” Bates added.

Albers finished with 16 points and seven rebounds on the night, and sophomore Eli Pancol contributed another double-double, scoring 15 and collecting 11 rebounds. Pancol was also on the receiving end of an alley-oop dunk from Windlan in the first quarter.

In the junior varsity game, Pendleton Heights knocked off Northeastern 44-34. Sophomore Christian Jones scored 18 points and freshman Tristan Ross added 15 points and 14 rebounds.

A big weekend looms for Pendleton Heights, opening with a conference clash at Greenfield-Central Friday and concluding with a matchup with class 4A No. 4 Pike at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Saturday.

Bates said the team is looking forward to the opportunity to play at the home of the Pacers, a game scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m.

“Our kids are excited,” he said. “I can’t say much about Pike yet, but they are Marion County champions again. I hear people say that Pike is down this year, but they win that county for a third year in a row. But it’s a great opportunity and it’s going to be a great experience. What a dream for a high school kid. Hopefully, they aren’t too overwhelmed and remember we have a basketball game to play.”

As great a chance as that is for the players and fans, there is a reason Bates doesn’t know much about Pike. His Arabians have a more important game the night before in Greenfield at 7:30 p.m.

  • “We won’t talk about Pike until Saturday morning,” he said. “Our focus will be Greenfield Monday through Friday. They are the reason we didn’t win conference last year, and our kids know that; they have some extra motivation to play Greenfield Friday.”

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