By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
RICHMOND, Ind. —
Pendleton Heights seniors Brogan Gary and Kurt Talbert awoke at 8 a.m. Saturday morning and headed off to school to take their ACTs.
When the tests were over, there was a quick sprint home for a change of clothes and a bite to eat and then a long bus ride to Connersville for a boys basketball game.
By the end of the night at the Spartan Bowl, however, it was the home team left feeling like the day had been too long.
Gary led all scorers with 18 points, Talbert added 10 and sophomore sensation Sean McDermott finished with 17 in just his third varsity start as the Arabians snapped a three-game losing streak with a convincing 52-34 victory.
“We were more aggressive, and we were tough,” Gary said. “That’s the main thing coach stresses, and we had it tonight. It was just a positive attitude, and we were ready to make plays.”
Pendleton Heights (2-3) entered the game with more turnovers in its first four games than any team head coach Brian Hahn had led at the school. But the Arabians coughed the ball up just eight times against Connersville (3-3), and just two of those came in the second half.
Pendleton Heights opened the final 16 minutes by forcing three turnovers on the Spartans’ first five possessions. Gary scored on a driving lay-up, Talbert added a basket of his own off one of Gary’s game-high six assists and McDermott finished the run with a 3-pointer to turn a 23-19 halftime lead into a commanding 30-22 advantage.
The Arabians never looked back.
McDermott led a 3-point barrage, sinking 5 of 6 attempts beyond the arc, and Pendleton Heights made 8 of 12 3-pointers overall.
McDermott, a transfer from Lapel, found out he was cleared for varsity competition just two days before the Hamilton Southeastern game last weekend. He made his first varsity appearance for the Arabians at
Westfield on Tuesday and earned his first start Friday at Mount Vernon.
He’s averaging 13.7 points per game, but he admits he’s had some help along the way.
“It’s a little nerve-racking,” McDermott, whose mother — the former Kim Darner — was a star at Highland, said of being thrown into the varsity fire. “But when you get out there with your teammates you know they’re going to get your back. You know they’re going to get you open, and you know they’re going to help us all get what we need to win.”
The Arabians played an outstanding all-around game in the second half. They shot 68.8 percent from the field, forced Connersville into seven turnovers and held the Spartans to 41.7 percent shooting and just 15 points.
“It was a great half,” Hahn said.
Gary and McDermott led the defensive charge with four and three steals, respectively.
They also drew plenty of attention on the offensive end. And when Connersville overplayed its hand on the perimeter, Pendleton Heights made the Spartans pay by feeding Talbert inside.
The senior center shot 5-of-6 from the floor and tied Gary for the team lead with four rebounds.
“Kurt is so important to what we want to do this year,” Hahn said. “When he’s efficient, when he’s active and when he’s making plays, we’re hard to guard. And we were hard to guard tonight.”
It was the fourth game for the Arabians in the past eight days, and the team also endured a late-night game-planning session after returning from a loss at Mount Vernon on Friday.
Against the Spartans, Hahn finally saw the team he’s been expecting to see all season.
Now it’s earned a long-awaited rest.
“Everybody’s tired,” Hahn said. “Everybody needs a break, mentally and physically.”
Pendleton Heights travels to Shenandoah on Friday.