PENDLETON — As the Pendleton Heights boys basketball team heads down its final stretch of the regular season, it’s important it stays focused and maintains its momentum. Not necessarily easy things to do when playing an overmatched opponent.
In the process of picking up another big victory, the Arabians also satisfied one of the team goals heading into the season.
Mark Albers poured in 23 points to lead four Arabians in double figures as Pendleton Heights routed Yorktown 76-35 on Thursday, Feb. 2.
With the win, Pendleton Heights clinched at least a share of their ninth Hoosier Heritage Conference championship with one game to play.
With Yorktown (1-13) coming to town, coach Kevin Bates wanted everyone to get involved.
Eleven Arabians scored in the game as Bates saw the level of focus and execution he was looking for.
“We wanted to not have a let-down when we did play all the players,” he said. “Our top 10 players all played from 12 to 18 minutes, so we had good balance. And we really wanted to guard them and get better defensively. We wanted to play at our expectations.”
Pendleton Heights (14-4) held the Tigers to just 30.8 percent shooting for the game and forced 17 turnovers. The Arabian offense, however, turned the ball over four times and shot a solid 51 percent with 14 assists on 26 made baskets, despite playing the entire roster. They were led by Albers, who was 9-13 overall (4-6 from behind the 3-point line.)
“The one thing we stressed in practice, other than our defensive effort, was to be unselfish,” Bates said. “We talked about making the extra pass. At times, we get in a rut where we drive to the basket looking to score. What we’re trying to get the players to realize that we have enough scorers that when we drive, the defense collapses and we can make an extra pass. We did a good job of that.”
With the win, Pendleton Heights (14-4) remains the only unbeaten team in conference play at 6-0. It has a date in New Castle on Valentine’s Day for a chance to win the HHC outright, but still has two games between now and then.
“The kids were excited,” Bates said. “We’re all excited. All the hard work in the offseason has paid off. This is all the kids; I’m so proud of them for what they’ve accomplished. We’ve agreed that we’re going to focus on Muncie Central and Fishers (this week), but then we’re going to get greedy and try to win this thing for ourselves.”
Perhaps the biggest news to come out of this game is the return of guard Trent Miller. The junior was averaging more than 11 points per game before he suffered a knee injury in practice before the fifth game of the season.
He scored five points Thursday with two rebounds and an assist, and Bates said he got caught up in the emotion of the moment when he checked into the game.
“It was so heartwarming when he checked in,” Bates said. “The fans were phenomenal, they gave him a great ovation, and that got to me a little bit. His intelligence, his shooting ability are right there — I was really pleased. He played 12 minutes, but he’s still trying to get some stamina in the knee, and it gets fatigued. But the next day at practice, he was fine.”
A trio of sophomores joined Albers as double figure scoring in the game. Karsten Windlan and Damieon Warrum scored 11 each, and Eli Pancol added 10 points. Warrum also led the Arabians in rebounding with seven.
Pendleton Heights will play host to Muncie Central at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, before traveling to Fishers Friday, Feb. 10.