By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — PENDLETON — It was almost a perfect evening for the Pendleton Heights boys basketball team.
Sean McDermott made his season debut, and the home team took Class 4A No. 4 Pike to the limit Thursday night. But the Arabians couldn't quite write the happy ending, falling 60-56 in the final seconds.
"The reality is we can be better than we were tonight," Pendleton Heights coach Brian Hahn said. "I thought we rebounded well. We were very competitive on the boards, and it shows in the stats. We found some shooters, and some guys stepped up and made some big shots. What we obviously need to improve on is handling the basketball."
The Arabians turned the ball over 23 times, including 15 in a frenetic second quarter that turned the game.
Pike trailed 22-13 early in the period before ramping up its press. With seniors Levi Buck and Austin Brizendine on the bench with two fouls each, a group of young players on the floor took awhile to find their footing.
The Red Devils (6-1) took advantage with a 15-2 run to seize control. Pendleton Heights (5-2) fought back, and 3-pointer by McDermott cut the deficit to 28-27 at the half.
"I was really proud of the kids that played in the second quarter," Hahn said. "Sean McDermott had to play the whole quarter because we committed some silly fouls. But the kids competed hard. They tried to fight through adversity, and they really did."
McDermott was playing for the first time since the Arabians' regional loss against Indianapolis Cathedral last March. The junior, who has drawn interest from Indiana University among others, spent seven days in the hospital in late fall with a severe staph infection.
Playing a little more than one half, he scored a team-high 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-8 from 3-point range.
"He's not in game shape," Hahn said. "He's nowhere near where he was in November. But I'm just happy he's out there. I'm happy for him. He fought through some unbelievable adversity just to even be out there right now. For him to do what he did tonight is a miracle."
Pike pushed its lead to 44-35 midway through the third quarter, but the Arabians never relented. When Buck somehow got a three-quarter court shot to fall at the buzzer, pulling Pendleton Heights within 46-43, it seemed anything might be possible.
Kenton Dunham — one of four Arabians in double figures with 10 points — tied the game 50-50 with a 3-pointer at the 5:02 mark of the final period.
Jalen Morgan — who scored all of his game-high 16 points in the second half — made a traditional three-point play at the other end to ignite a 7-0 run for the Red Devils.
A jumper by Dunham and a 3-pointer by Buck got the Arabians back to 57-55 with 1:09 to play. Buck then tipped a Pike pass at mid-court, and Austin Brizendine pulled it down and sprinted to his basket. He was fouled at the rim and made one of two free throws to make it a one-point game.
Morgan added a pair of charity shots with 13.8 seconds left to put back ahead by three at 59-56, and Pendleton Heights got one final chance. The ball was knocked away on the inbounds pass, however, and Morgan added another free throw with 9.6 seconds remaining to provide the final margin.
Justin Thomas added 14 points for Pike, and Tahjai Teague — whose father, Sean, played at Anderson High School — finished with 13.
Caleb Hardy scored 12 points for the Arabians, and freshman Mark Albers added 11.
Pendleton Heights next will play Anderson in the first round of the Madison County tournament on Monday.
Hahn said games like Thursday night's are just what the Arabians need to get better.
"Obviously, Pike is an elite program," he said. "It gives us an idea of exactly where we're at."
Lapel's boys basketball game at Banker's Life Fieldhouse was postponed as was 2 girls games, Frankton at Eastbrook and Anderson at Noblesville.