NEW CASTLE — For four quarters, Greenfield-Central and Pendleton Heights battled for inches of ground in the opening night of sectional play at the New Castle Fieldhouse.
That wasn’t enough.
The Cougars and the Arabians needed two overtime sessions to determine who would continue. But when the final OT buzzer sounded, the Arabians had to concede the war to Cougars in a 64-57 season-ending loss.
“We didn’t come up with timely loose balls. We didn’t come up with timely free throws, timely shots,” coach Kevin Bates said. Pendleton Heights shot roughly 65 percent compared to 83 percent by Greenfield-Central.
The Arabians trailed nearly the entire first half, and were down by six at the break. Balls that would not fall hampered Pendleton through much of the second quarter, and leading scorer senior Mark Albers put his first points on the board nearly half way through the second period.
After trailing 24-18 at the half, the Arabians came out with a vengeance in the third. Sophomore Karsten Windlan opened the second half hitting for two and adding one more as Greenfield-Central fouled on the shot attempt. Windlan’s free throw narrowed the Cougar lead to one.
Trading buckets put the Cougars up again by three, but when Albers scored and made a free throw after the shot, the game took another turn.
Beginning with Albers hitting a 3, junior Trent Miller sank another one from the perimeter, followed by a 3 from Windlan. That began an 11-3 run with the Arabians outscoring the Cougars 18-8 in the third quarter.
The Cougars however, never wavered and began their own comeback, hitting a 3 at the buzzer, ending the third quarter down by just one point, 36-35.
Neither team gained much of a lead in the fourth, but the Arabians’ trouble at the foul line began when they started a pattern of hitting just one-of-two from the line. The Arabians held a 2-point lead when Cougar Drey Jameson nailed the tying bucket with just four seconds remaining, setting the scene for the first OT.
“We didn’t come up with the timely stops. I felt we had the game won two different times in the overtime,” Bates said.
In that session, the Arabians’ lead never was more than three points. Each time they had an advantage, Greenfield-Central rushed back to either come within one or even the score. Again with just seconds remaining G-C’s Jameson hits a three tying the game at 53-53 and forcing a second overtime.
The Cougars took the lead on Joshua Mundell’s basket and never relinquished it, going six for six from the foul line, while the Arabians weren’t able to capitalize at the line and missed several shots as the clocked ticked down. Greenfield outscored Pendleton 11-4 in the final overtime.
“You have to give Greenfield credit,” Bates said. “They came in with a game plan and executed it.”
The Arabians had just five turnovers for the game and out rebounded the Cougars.
“We had a good week of practice. I thought we were prepared. They (Greenfield) are a mentally tough team, and tonight the better team won,” Bates said.
Albers led the Arabians with 15 points. Miller, Eston Stull and Brandon Helpling each had 10.
Despite the early exit from the tournament, the Arabians produced a 17-7 season record, captured a Madison County title and took the Hoosier Heritage Conference title with an unblemished register. Additionally, Albers hit the milestone 1,000-career-point club.
Versus North Central
By Rob Hunt
The Arabians closed out their regular season Tuesday, Feb. 21, with a home matchup against Mr. Basketball candidate Kris Wilkes and the seventh-ranked North Central Panthers.
As one of the most celebrated players in the state, Wilkes did not disappoint.
The UCLA recruit scored 34 points, including 15 during a 27-6 run during the middle of the contest, to lead the Panthers to a 69-58 win against the Arabians. North Central improved to 21-4.
The Arabians battled the bigger and quicker Panthers through much of the first half and managed to stay close. They pulled within one on a wing jumper by sophomore Karsten Windlan at 17-16 to open the second quarter.
That was when Wilkes took over.
He scored on a pair of layups and a dunk, and senior guard Mateo Rivera buried a 3-pointer to close out the half as North Central pulled away to a 35-22 lead at intermission. Wilkes also had three rebounds and a steal in the second quarter, but the third quarter was where he flexed his muscle.
He scored the first nine points of the second half, a 3-point play, a layup, two free throws and another dunk as the Panthers pulled away to their biggest lead of the night at 44-22. During the Wilkes 9-0 run, the Arabians missed all five shots, turned the ball over twice and struggled to execute the defensive game plan against the future Bruin.
“I think he’s great,” Bates said of Wilkes. “He’s a special type of player. He’s the type of player, in my opinion, that can put an entire team on his back and carry them to a state championship game. We didn’t do a good job of taking away his right hand; it seemed like he went to his right the whole game. The game plan was great, and at times when we executed it, we got stops. The problem was, at times we didn’t execute.”
Wilkes finished the game 13-17 from the floor and a perfect 7-7 at the foul line.
Pendleton Heights regained some momentum with a 13-3 run of its own. Junior Justin Shupe, who finished with 13 points, got it started with a 3-point play. Following a Wilkes 3-point jumper, Shupe and sophomore Dameion Warrum scored on layups before senior Mark Albers connected on a 3-point shot and was fouled on his next attempt, converting all three free throws to pull within 47-35.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Arabians got even closer. A 3-point shot by senior Eston Stull and a pair of free throws by Windlan cut the Panther lead to nine at 52-43. But, aside from an Albers 3-pointer, the Arabians went cold as North Central pulled away to a 60-46 lead. Six Pendleton Heights turnovers during a nine-possession stretch made the difference.
“Part of it was, we looked across and saw North Central was guarding us,” Bates said. “Instead of having the mind-set that we didn’t want to turn it over, we just through it at the basket. We had more than enough opportunities. That’s something we’ll have to clean up for sectional.”
A Shupe layup cut the deficit to seven at 64-57, but the Panthers answered with a transition dunk and three free throws in the final minute to hold off the Arabian comeback.
Albers led the Arabians with 19 points, eight rebounds and four steals in his final home contest. He is already the school’s all-time leader in 3-point shots made, both for a single season and for a career, and could finish as the school’s No. 2 all-time leading scorer, depending on how far the Arabians advance in the postseason.
“I’m going to put him up there along with Wilkes — he’s great,” Bates said. “I can’t say enough. He’s been a great leader on and off the court, in the classroom and for the community. He’s broken two of Kellen Dunham’s records — what more can you say? I just hope that, as a team, we can rally behind him, because you know he’s going to lead us.”
Windlan finished with 14 points before fouling out late, and Stull handed out four assists for the Arabians.
The Pendleton Heights junior varsity team finished the season at 11-9 following a 45-39 loss to the Panthers. Sophomore Christian Jones scored 18, and sophomore Tristan Spinks added 11 to pace the Arabian offense. Sophomore Ryan Noel had 12 rebounds and three steals, and sophomore Cole Dunham handed out four assists.