The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Sports

March 2, 2013

Third time is charmed for Arabians

Pendleton Heights completes Cinderella run to third straight sectional title

NEW CASTLE, Ind. — Matt Brown woke up Saturday morning and learned he’d be starting that night for Pendleton Heights in the Class 4A sectional championship game.

Like almost everything else this weekend at the New Castle Fieldhouse, the move worked like a charm for the Arabians.

Brown scored 13 points, tying Kurt Talbert for team-high honors as all five starters reached double figures, and Pendleton Heights (15-9) rolled to a 58-44 victory over New Castle (13-10).

“It shows we can do it,” Brown said of the win that gave the Arabians a boys basketball sectional championship for the third straight year. “Everyone said we couldn’t, and we proved we could.”

It was a relatively drama-free finish to a remarkable three-game run.

Pendleton Heights opened the sectional Tuesday night by surviving a double-overtime thriller against Connersville. The Arabians blitzed favored Richmond in the second half three days later to reach Saturday’s final.

Then they never really gave the host Trojans a chance.

Pendleton Heights clung to New Castle’s 3-point shooters, holding the Trojans to 5-of-21 shooting from beyond the arc. Four of those treys came in the final 1:17 of the fourth quarter, long after the outcome had been determined.

It was a lesson learned during the teams’ regular season meeting, which the Arabians won 61-60 on the same floor.

“We knew we had to get out to their shooters,” Talbert said after finishing with 13 points and a team-high six rebounds. “(In the first meeting) we struggled with their flares, getting out to the top.”

New Castle made its first seven 3-pointers — and 10 of 16 overall — in an 80-65 upset against Anderson in the first round on Tuesday. Pendleton Heights coach Brian Hahn was determined not to see his team fall to the same fate.

The Arabians sent Brogan Gary and Levi Buck to the point on the perimeter to deny Trojans shooters Steven Bennett and Korey Ryan — who combined for 50 points against the Tribe — from straight-on looks.

Brown and Sean McDermott were sent to the corners to discourage Kyle Bumbalough and Abe Haler from attempting to benefit from the attention paid to their teammates.

That’s the reason Brown got the starting nod over senior forward Peyton McCardwell.

“We did that the last time we played them, too,” Hahn said. “They play four guards, and they really try and stretch your defense. We thought Matt matched up well to that on both ends (of the court).”

The strategy resulted in a disjointed offensive performance for New Castle as 6-foot-6 center Kyle Goolsby led the Trojans with 15 points, scoring the majority off six offensive rebounds.

Ryan finished with 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting, and Bennett scored 11 with 4-for-14 accuracy. The Trojans shot just 39.5 percent overall. Pendleton Heights scored the first six points of the game and never trailed.

The Arabians broke things open with a 10-0 second-quarter run that was capped when Brown knocked a ball free from a Trojan guard, somehow kept it alive by diving near the sideline and pushed it ahead to Gary, who turned it into an easy layup.

That put Pendleton Heights in front 20-7 and silenced a huge home crowd.

New Castle cut the deficit to 28-19 late in the third quarter, but Brown and Buck answered with back-to-back 3-pointers and the Trojans never seriously threatened again.

When New Castle coach Steve Bennett called timeout trailing 36-21 just 41 seconds into the fourth quarter, he met his team coming off the court with his arms straight out at his sides, seemingly inquiring whether any of his players had an answer for the ongoing assault.

“These kids have been special,” Hahn said. “We struggled finishing games early in the year, but we got better every day and we got better every game. They stepped it up at the right time of year.”

For the second night in a row, the Arabians showcased terrific offensive balance. McDermott trailed right behind Brown and Talbert with 12 points, and Buck and Gary finished with 10 points each.

Gary, the only player to start for all three sectional championship teams, added a team-high eight assists. The Arabians shot 52.6 percent in the first half and finished at 48.5 percent with nine assists on 16 baskets.

Pendleton Heights was not expected to lift championship hardware again after losing four starters from last year’s 23-3 team. Now it will head to next week’s Southport Regional with revenge in mind.

The Arabians, who were upset by Terre Haute North in the regional opener last year at Hinkle Fieldhouse, will meet Indianapolis Cathedral next Saturday at 10 a.m.

“It’s a second chance,” Talbert said. “It’s a second chance to take a regional championship home.”

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