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BBB: Dragons fall to Cubs in sectional

March 5, 2014
By Andrew Smith of New Palestine High School

New Palestine rallied from a seven-point deficit late in the third quarter, but eventually fell 47-44 to Franklin in Tuesday's Class 4A sectional opener at Center Grove. 

The game was close throughout much of the second half, with six lead changes after halftime, but Franklin hit five free throws in the final minute to seal the game. 

The Dragons spent much of the night rallying -- coming back from six-point holes twice and a seven-point deficit late in the third quarter. NP had a 3-point look at the buzzer to tie the game, but it fell off the rim.

They trailed by six in the opening quarter, but Seth Cox and Connor Roach's inside play led to six straight points to tie the game at 8-8. The inside duo scored all of the Dragons' first-quarter points.

Franklin pushed the lead to 17-11, but Ryan Curry's four-point play just ahead of halftime cut the deficit to two. He had an open 3-pointer at the buzzer that would've given NP a lead rim out, but Curry drilled a 3-pointer and Brandon Jonas a baseline drive on the first possessions of the second half to give NP its first -- and biggest -- lead of the night at 20-17.

Franklin responded with a 12-2 run that put the Cubs up 29-22. But Jonas and Samson Haynes hit shots and Keegan Lytle drilled a 3-pointer at the third-quarter horn to cut the deficit to one, setting up a see-saw fourth quarter.

After Franklin scored on its first possession of the fourth, Lytle hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 32-32. The Dragons answered every Grizzly Cub basket -- a putback by Roach and two free throws by Curry to stay within two. After a Franklin miss, Curry drilled a 3-pointer to give NP a short-lived 39-38 lead. Franklin answered with four straight points to go up 42-39, but Lytle hit his third 3-pointer of the second half with 1:14 left to tie the game.

Franklin ran 45 seconds off the clock and appeared to be going for the final shot, but a foul at midcourt put the Cubs' Christian Dickmann to the line, where he broke the tie with two free throws in the final 30 seconds. Two Dragon missed free throws led to another foul, and two free throws by Tyler Thomas with 17 seconds left. Curry answered with a coast-to-coast drive to cut the deficit to two, and Thomas hit one of two free throws with 7.6 seconds left, giving the Dragons one final shot. Haynes got free for a 3 from the left wing, but it hit the rim and the Cubs escaped with the 47-44 victory.

It was the second straight year the Dragons had a shot to tie or win the sectional opener at the horn that wouldn't go. NP is now 7-3 in sectional games since 2009 -- all three losses came in the closing seconds.

Curry led the way with 16 points, hitting three 3-pointers, and added four rebounds, two assists and two steals. Lytle tied his career high with nine points, going 3-5 from 3-point range. Roach had eight points, with three putbacks among his six rebounds. Cox had four points, a team-high eight rebounds and a blocked shot. Jonas had four points and three boards. Haynes had a solid all-around game with three points, eight rebounds and five assists.

The Dragons again won the battle of the boards, outrebounding the Grizzly Cubs 31-18, but committed 18 turnovers to Franklin's eight. NP shot 41 percent (17-41) and was 6-21 from 3-point range and just 4-9 from the line. Franklin shot 40 percent (17-40) but was 13-20 from the free throw line. Thomas (16 points, six rebounds) and Dickmann (14 points) led the Grizzly Cubs.

The Dragons finish the 2013-14 season with a 10-11 mark, the program's fifth straight 10-win season. The streak of double-digit win seasons ties the second-longest streak in school history. It was the final game for seniors Seth Cox, Samson Haynes, Keegan Lytle and Connor Roach, who were a part of conference and sectional championships during their careers.

Franklin, which is now 15-6, moves on to face Greenwood in Friday's semifinal.

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