NEW PALESTINE, Ind. -- The Hoosier Heritage Conference now has a two-team race.
New Palestine's 70-55 win against Yorktown on Friday pushes the Dragons to 5-0 in the HCC -- a half-game ahead of Class 3A No. 1 Mt. Vernon. Should Mt. Vernon win against Delta tonight and New Palestine top Shelbyville (3-10) next Friday, the teams both will be spotless in conference play when they face off at New Palestine on Feb. 15.
"If we take care of Shelbyville next Friday, Mt. Vernon has to come here," said Dragons coach Adam Barton, whose team fell to the Marauders 60-39 on Dec. 27. (We've) been in the underdog spot before. I think we'll be OK."
The Dragons (11-4) led by double digits on and off from the second quarter on, but Yorktown (12-3, 3-2) cut the margin to 57-49 with 4:27 left in the game.
New Pal's Michael Morris scored in the post, Ryan Curry hit back-to-back 3-pointers, Morris got a rebound basket, and Curry scored on a fast-break feed from Samson Haynes, was fouled and hit the free throw. It was 70-49 Dragons; game over.
"We talked about getting better every game, and one thing we haven't gotten better at is putting people away," Barton said. "Tonight we hit some big shots on some late possessions."
Morris finished with 29 points and six rebounds, while Curry added 22 points, but this was a group effort. Brandon Jonas added nine points and six rebounds, Connor Roach grabbed four rebounds and screened for Morris all night, and Solomon and Samson Haynes combined for nine assists. Seth Cox (seven rebounds) and Sam Larrabee (two points, two rebounds) also played solid minutes off the bench.
Behind 11 points from Morris, New Pal led 18-17 with the seconds ticking down in the first quarter when teammate Ryan Curry drained a 3-pointer at the top of the key, pushing the lead to four.
Curry would hit two more 3s early in the second quarter, helping the Dragons creep out to a 30-20 lead. The margin grew to as many as 12 (34-22) before Yorktown closed the half with a 6-2 run to get within 40-34 at the break.
New Palestine opened a 47-35 lead midway through the third before a cold spell, and Yorktown was able to get within six points early in the third and as close as eight before the Dragons' closing run.
Yorktown got 20 points from Jordan Bibbs.
"(Coming from behind) takes the legs out of a team, certainly," Yorktown coach Greg Miller said. "And going against that physical offense with those screens that free up Morris, that takes its toll, too."