By George Bremer
The Associated Press
---- — YORKTOWN — Pendleton Heights couldn't keep rival Yorktown from prowling the paint Friday night, and as a result the Arabians no longer control the Hoosier Heritage Conference championship race.
The host Tigers shot 56.5 percent from the floor, outrebounded Pendleton Heights 29-17 and walked away with a 69-61 overtime victory that snapped a six-game winning streak for the visitors. A win would have given the Arabians (11-4, 5-1 HHC) their second league title in the past three years.
Now it's Yorktown (9-2, 4-0) that can clinch the crown with wins at Shelbyville and at home against Mount Vernon down the stretch.
"We're very disappointed," Pendleton Heights coach Brian Hahn said. "We had a chance to win it. We just got dominated in the lane."
Yorktown forwards Riley Neal and Jacob Preston combined for 36 points and 15 rebounds to lead the charge. Preston scored 10 of his 18 points in the first half, and Neal had 14 of his 18 in the final two quarters and overtime.
Neal's layup to open the extra period gave the Tigers their first lead since the opening minute of the third quarter and started a 9-0 run. The spurt was similar to the 9-2 string that Yorktown used to open the game.
But Hahn said the scoring runs were simply the product of easy looks being allowed by the Arabians' defense.
"The runs didn't beat us," he said. "The lack of defense in the paint beat us. They got 50 to 55 points in the lane. Anytime you give up 50 points in the lane, you don't deserve to win."
The Tigers made just two 3-pointers, getting the majority of their other 24 field goals in and around the paint. Even when baskets didn't come directly in the lane, the opportunities often led to points.
Yorktown was 15-of-21 from the free-throw line, dwarfing the Arabians' 7-for-7 performance at the stripe.
Trailing 15-8 after the opening quarter, Pendleton Heights got back into the game with starters Levi Buck and Sean McDermott sitting on the bench because of foul trouble.
Freshman Mark Albers provided a spark with two 3-pointers for his only points of the game, and senior Austin Brizendine led a defensive effort that produced some transition baskets in the second quarter.
Sophomore Kenton Dunham, who scored a game-high 22 points, cut the Arabians' deficit to 27-26 with a 3-pointer just before the first half ended. After Preston opened the third quarter by making one of two free throws, McDermott drained a 3-pointer to give the Arabians their first lead.
McDermott scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and overtime, helping Pendleton Heights push its advantage to five points on several occasions. But the Arabians never completely shook free.
Caleb Morey — one of four Tigers in double figures with 13 points, matching Riley Miller's total — tied the game at 49-49 with a pair of free throws with 1:58 to play in regulation. The teams traded baskets before Pendleton Heights called timeout with 1:02 to play.
The Arabians milked the clock to 12.1 seconds before calling another timeout to set up a final shot attempt. That shot never materialized as McDermott was contacted heavily while trying to release the ball in the final second.
No foul was called, and the game headed into the extra period where the Tigers dominated.
Caleb Hardy scored 11 points as the third Pendleton Heights player in double figures, and his traditional three-point play with 2:16 left in overtime snapped Yorktown's run and made the score 60-54.
A 3-pointer by Dunham on the next possession cut the deficit to 61-57, but the Arabians got no closer.
Pendleton Heights has little time to ponder the loss, traveling to Muncie Central tonight.
"We have to (put it behind us)," Hahn said. "We've gotta move on, and we've gotta get better. We've got a lot of tough games left, starting tomorrow night with Muncie Central."