RICHMOND — For the second straight night, a Madison County girls basketball team seemed poised to take control of a sectional game against New Palestine.
But for the second straight evening, the Dragons posted a big second quarter to deny an area team its chance to advance.
Dragons senior Jordan Reid scored 24 points, but it was her defense that made the difference as New Pal topped Anderson 64-53 in the Sectional 9 championship game at the Tiernan Center on Saturday.
The Dragons improve to 18-7 and will play Brownsburg at the Decatur Central regional next Saturday.
After falling behind early, 13-8, Anderson went on a 14-4 run into the second quarter and grabbed its biggest lead at 22-17 on a layup from sophomore Kaylie Vaughn.
But, over the last five minutes of the half, the Dragons outscored the Indians 11-3. It was similar to New Pal’s half ending 15-0 run the previous night when it defeated Pendleton Heights.
What the Dragons were able to do was rebound and limit their turnovers. They dominated the glass 35-18 and, after committing five turnovers in the first quarter, had just three miscues in the second and third quarters combined.
“I made a couple mistakes. I think I stayed in the press too long,” Cleckley said. “I should have gone full-court man to man, and that’s on me. We knew we were rattling them a little bit, and that’s why I stuck with it.”
The Lady Tribe opened the third quarter with six straight points, a jumper by senior Erin Martin and back-to-back baskets by junior Tyra Ford, to take a 31-28 lead.
But Reid scored off a steal and followed with a pair of free throws to regain the lead for New Pal. A Ford basket gave Anderson its final lead at 33-32.
But Reid took over the rest of the quarter.
She scored the next two baskets, blocked a shot and added a steal and two assists as the Dragons went on a decisive 21-4 run, capped by a four-point possession early in the fourth quarter. New Pal had its biggest lead at 53-38.
A three-point play by Ford and baskets by Martin and Makyra Dixon got Anderson as close as nine, but the Indians ran out of time.
For the game, Reid scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, but it was her three blocks and four steals that impressed Cleckley the most.
“You’ve got to give her a lot of credit. She hit shots when she needed to hit shots,” he said. “But, actually, what I thought she did better was she blocked a couple of our shots near the basket, and those were huge. Those blocks changed the game. If we get those buckets, it’s a lot tighter game.”
Ford, despite an off shooting night, still led the Indians with 20 points and six rebounds and Martin, a three-year starter for Cleckley, scored 17 while handing out four assists in her final game.
“I wish her the very best in her future endeavors, but we’re gonna miss her,” Cleckley said. “Some very clutch shooting at times, and we talked earlier in the year at county. She always showed up the best at the county tournament.”
Anderson’s season, which included the team’s third straight Madison County title, ends at 15-11. The Indians entered Saturday winners of nine of their last 11 games and were playing their best basketball entering tournament play.
Despite the loss, Cleckley is looking forward to a team that returns mostly intact next season.
“I’m very, very pleased,” he said. “At the start of the season, I wasn’t sure what to expect. We had a lot of younger girls that we had to work into the fold. Tyra, Erin and (junior) Karlee (Goodwin) did a great job of leading this young team. Obviously, we’re not happy to end the season with a loss, but we’re very excited about the future. Next year, I think we’re going to be very dangerous.”