NEW CASTLE — The youthful Pendleton Heights Lady Arabians basketball team chipped away at New Castle’s large first-half lead during the final 16 minutes of the contest, but deficit was too much to overcome — New Castle prevailed 48-44.
Arabians’ coach Holly Hollinger-Gutierrez took the entire eight minutes of halftime to motivate her players after Pendleton Heights struggled mightily in all facets of the game during the first half.
“Nerves were the big factor obviously if you look at the first half,” the second-year coach said. “We won the second half.”
Down by 18 points, 32-14, to start the second half, the Arabians went on a 9-0 run, thanks in part to penetrating the New Castle defense driving the ball and drawing fouls. The run started with Sam Hammel sinking Pendleton’s only 3-pointer of the night.
The Trojans committed 11 second half fouls after being called for nine in the first.
“They did a much better job (in the second half),” Hollinger-Gutierrez said. “Hopefully they will regroup and we will move on.”
Senior Taylor Siefken had a game-high 15 points, nine coming in the second half. All of her first-half points came at the free throw line, 6-for-8. In the second half she went 3-for-4 from the line, but it was her perfect 3-for-3 from the field that paced the comeback.
New Castle’s defense clamped down on Kiawna Cottrell in the first half, holding her scoreless and without a field goal attempt. Inline with the rest of the team, her aggressiveness showed during the comeback as she also has nine second half points.
It was clear early that Hollinger-Gutierrez’s ball control concerns were a reality as the Arabians committed 16 first-half turnovers, which led to 11 of the Trojans’ 32 points.
The miscues began to take their toll on the players during the second quarter. As the five seconds nearly ran out, a Trojan defender kicked Cottrell’s inbounds pass. Cottrell mouthed, “run the play,” her subsequent inbounds was stolen.
New Castle took control of the first half in the second quarter, when the Trojans reeled off 11 unanswered points after Siefken dropped two free throws.