FORTVILLE — The game situation was nothing new, but this was a sectional semifinal game.

Pendleton Heights had been down this road before.

The team with Class 4A Sectional 9’s most accomplished résumé, the Arabians handled the in-game adversity against New Palestine, at Saturday’s Mt. Vernon Sectional, like it was just another regular-season tilt.

Dealing with foul trouble among multiple starters, the Arabians found themselves down five points against the upset-minded Dragons.

Instead of watching the deficit grow, Pendleton Heights turned the game around.

Getting key minutes from bench players and forcing numerous Dragon turnovers, the Arabians ended the first half on a 10-2 run to lead by seven at halftime. They extended the lead the entire second half on their way to a 66-46 victory and berth into Tuesday’s championship game against host Mt. Vernon.

The Arabians had spent much of the season without a full team. Whether it be an injury, COVID-19 quarantine or other circumstances, the Hoosier Heritage Conference champions found a way to end their regular season with a 17-5 record (including 7-0 in Hoosier Heritage Conference play).

After wins against Richmond (in a first-round game on Feb. 2) and New Palestine, the Arabians were 19-5.

“You want to talk about a total team effort, we were going deep into the bench, and we were still able to fight back through that foul trouble,” Pendleton Heights coach Chad Cook said. “We’ve dealt with some adversity this year with not having players. There are a couple losses on our schedule because we didn’t have all of our players, but we’ve been able to deal with it.

“(Saturday) was another chance where I have my starters on the bench and not playing very many minutes, but those girls that came off the bench played a heck of a game. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Freshman leading scorer Kaycie Warfel (16.3 points per game) sat out the entire second quarter after picking up two first-quarter fouls.

Cook juggled his regulars and bench players the entire second period with starters Whitney Warfel, Abi Rosenkrans and Kylea Lloyd all picking up two first-half fouls.

The Arabians trailed 16-11 with 6:29 to go in the second quarter. Senior Hailee Brunnemer, the only starter to not pick up a foul, scored and was fouled. She added the free throw to cut it to 16-14.

She followed shortly after with a 3-pointer to give the Arabians the lead.

Morgan Martin, Berkley Shelton, Skylar Baldwin and Ava Phillips all saw first-half minutes off the bench. Shelton had the final four points of the first half, ending the impressive run that gave Pendleton Heights a 29-22 halftime lead.

“A couple big plays (by Brunnemer) and a couple defensive stops from those girls coming in was really the key to keeping us in there. We didn’t have to fight from behind with just two quarters left,” Cook said.

“Having those girls throughout the year when we’ve been short-handed, we’ve been without two or three starters at times,” Cook added. “Given their experience through the year (the bench) didn’t sweat it. They weren’t nervous. They came out ready to play.”

The coach added they have taken pride in their defense all season, though they fouled too much on Saturday. Still, they were able to help force 26 New Palestine turnovers. Seven of those Dragon miscues came in the second quarter, eight came in the third.

Along with the turnovers, New Palestine went from the 6:53 mark of the second quarter, on an Isabella Gizzi 3-pointer, to the 3:48 mark of the third before its next basket, a 2-pointer from Gizzi.

Brunnemer led Pendleton Heights scorers with 19. Rosenkrans followed with 16. Kaycie Warfel, who missed most of the first half, finished with 10, all coming in the final two quarters.

Whitney Warfel scored eight. Lloyd had seven and Shelton finished with six. Lloyd also had 10 rebounds.

Gizzi led all scorers with 23. New Pal’s Alaina Miller added 14.


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