Pendleton Height boys hoops down Greenfield-Central

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GREENFIELD — The Pendleton Heights Arabians are a team that thrives on emotion. After half of Friday’s basketball game in Greenfield on Friday, they needed a spark.

Eli Pancol was in the right place at the right time and ignited an Arabian firestorm.

The sophomore scored 16 points, including a thunderous rebound dunk that paved the way for a 20-3 second-half run as the Arabians knocked off Greenfield-Central 63-53.

Pendleton Heights (13-3) remained unbeaten in Hoosier Heritage Conference play at 4-0, while the Cougars fell to 6-9 overall (2-4, HHC).

In the first half, the Cougars led by as many as seven and by two at halftime. And with the Arabians trailing by a 31-26 score, senior Eston Stull got the run started with a 3-point shot off an assist from Pancol. The 6-foot-4 Pancol then buried a 15-foot jumper after picking up a steal on defense.

Senior Mark Albers launched a 3-point attempt from the left side, but it caromed off the rim into the waiting hand of Pancol, who slammed home the go-ahead dunk.

Sophomore Karsten Windlan collected a steal and converted a 3-point play after being fouled on a layup.

In four possessions, the Arabians went from five down to five up. Pendleton Heights coach Kevin Bates said the combination of an adjustment on defense and the dunk by Pancol were the keys to the comeback.

“What I think got our motor going was when we started our little 1-2-2 pressure defense,” Bates said. “And to top it off, Eli’s dunk. We’re a team that runs on emotion. As soon as he did that, our bench exploded; the kids out there were jumping around. It finally got us going.”

A pair of baskets from Albers and five free throws, two by junior Justin Shupe and three from Pancol, capped the run and gave the Arabians their biggest lead of the game at 46-34.

A 3-point shot by John Davis pulled the Cougars to within four at 50-46, but Albers — who scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half — answered with back-to-back threes. The Arabian lead would be no less than eight the rest of the way.

The Cougars did a solid job of slowing down the top three Arabian scorers — Albers, Windlan and Pancol, in the first half. The trio combined to score just eight points before halftime, a result of a tough zone defense played by Greenfield-Central.

“Give them credit,” he said. “They played a triangle and two — they really stuck to Mark and Karsten. Early on, I thought Eli stepped into some good shots but just didn’t make them. What it did was made us stand a lot.”

The bench provided a boost in the first half to keep the Arabians close. Shupe and sophomore Damieon Warrum scored five points each. With both Pancol and Windlan in early foul trouble, Bates said the bench contributions were important. And will be again.

“It was real big,” Bates said. “You have to have a good bench. If you want to win a conference, a county or a sectional, you have to have players on the bench who are ready to play. I thought they did that. I thought Damieon was spectacular tonight. Those guys were big and instrumental to our success tonight.”

The Arabians will now turn their attention to the Pike Red Devils. Pendleton Heights will play the 10th ranked Red Devils today afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis at 2:30 p.m. Bates said it will be a fun and memorable day for his players.

“We knew tonight was going to be a battle,” he said. “I promised them if they could get through tonight, tomorrow was going to be enjoyable. It will be a time these kids will never forget. What a great experience to be able to play at Bankers Life — the kids will love it. Sure, we want to win, but we don’t have to win. It’s not a conference or a sectional. We’ll go enjoy the time and see what happens.”

In the junior varsity game, the Arabians also picked up a win against the Cougars by a 34-30 score. Sophomore Christian Jones hit five 3-pointers and scored 18 points, sophomore Christian Conkling grabbed seven rebounds, and sophomore Cole Dunham dished out four assists.