CONNERSVILLE — The Pendleton Heights girls basketball team used a strong first quarter to build a big lead and hit its free throws down the stretch to hang on for a 58-49 win over New Castle in the first round of Class 4A sectional play at the Spartan Bowl.
The Arabians came out hot on both ends of the floor, hitting 9-of-18 shots in the first quarter and forcing seven New Castle turnovers to build a 23-6 lead. Coach Holly Hollinger’s squad used a 48-44 opening night loss to the Trojans as fuel.
“We got off to a great start tonight,” Hollinger said. “It was a revenge game that we wanted.”
The Arabians started two freshmen on opening night (Kelsey Burton and Sam Hammel), and there was a bit of nerves for the newcomers. The difference from then to now is like night and day.
“Very different,” Hollinger said describing Hammel and Burton now. “They were very timid, very fragile. Now they are much stronger and confident. Hammel is one of the leaders of our team.”
Hammel had six points in the first quarter, and Burton had five, but it was senior Kiawna Cottrell that saved the night.
Cottrell also got off to a hot start, going for eight points in the first quarter, but foul trouble limited her in the second quarter when the hot-shooting Arabians went cold (2-for-11). New Castle was not any better in the second, converting just three of 18 attempts, and Pendleton increased its lead to 30-12 at the break.
New Castle played well in the third quarter but only cut three points off the deficit. It was early in the fourth when things got interesting, and Hammel and Cottrell made some key plays to save the season as New Castle started to seize momentum.
Hammel took a chance on a steal at midcourt and made it work as she raced to the other end for a layup after Shelby Anderson hit a 3 to cut the lead to 10.