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Trojans beat Patriots in battle of evenly-matched teams

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New Castle’s Cloie York (3) dribbles the ball against visiting Jay County’s Kendal Garringer (30) as the Trojans’ Alyssa “Peanut” Semler (5) and Macayla McGowan (2) get into position to receive a pass during Thursday night’s girls basketball game in the Fieldhouse. York buried two key three-pointers in the fourth quarter, the latter proving to be the game-winner, as New Castle edged past the visiting Patriots 51-47.
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New Castle senior Cameron Tabor (20) delivers a no-look pass to a teammate while defended by Jay County’s Hannah Phillips (10) during Thursday night’s girls basketball game in the Fieldhouse. Tabor posted a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds, plus the usual assists and steals, to help lead New Castle to a 51-47 win over the visiting Patriots.
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New Castle freshman Laila Smith (32) and Jay County senior Shelby Caldwell (44) battle for the opening tip (which Smith won) during Thursday night's girls basketball game in the Fieldhouse, Caldwell had a double-double (and game highs) of 21 points and 13 rebounds for the visiting Patriots, but Smith had 12 points, eight rebounds, and more help from her teammates as the Trojans squeezed out a 51-47 victory.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

The Jay County and host New Castle High School girls basketball teams were pretty well matched entering Thursday night's game in the Fieldhouse, and the parameters from the results bore that out.

Both teams grabbed 32 rebounds, and both hit six three-point field goals. Neither team turned the ball over much, as the Patriots made nine mistakes with the ball while the Trojans had six.

In the end, it all boiled down to New Castle hitting four more field goals to counteract Jay County's 7-3 advantage in free throws, and that four points made all the difference in the Trojans' 51-47 victory.

New Castle improved to 4-5 for the season while the Patriots trekked back home at 2-5.

"We had struggled mightily in the second quarter the past two games," New Castle Coach Molly Swift said afterward. "Coach (Ron) Baker told me not to let it become a mental thing. The thing I was most pleased about was our girls came ready to play from the start, and we had a 20-10 second quarter to give us a nice lead at halftime. Although we struggled in the third period, our girls persevered and pulled out the win."

This game was different than many others in several ways. First, there were no turnovers by either team or foul calls at all in the first quarter. Going further, the Trojans extended their careful handling of the basketball through the rest of the first half, ending the first 16 minutes with zero turnovers, compared to just one for Jay County.

New Castle sophomore Macayla McGowan hit a bucket 19 seconds into the first quarter and classmate Laila Smith followed with another basket at the 7:07 mark to give the Trojans an early 4-0 advantage.

Patriot senior Shelby Caldwell, who is valedictorian of her class, nailed the first of her trio of treys in the period to make the score 4-3, but Cameron Tabor and Smith followed with back-to-back buckets to boost the New Castle lead to 8-3 with 5:11 remaining in the first quarter.

Jay County's Hanna Dillon drained a shot from behind the arc, but McGowan notched a basket at the other end for a 10-6 Trojan advantage at the 4:46 mark.

New Castle then went over four minutes without a point while Caldwell countered with a three-pointer, a regular basket, and another trey to give the Patriots a 14-10 lead with 1:47 remaining in the period.

Smith scored her third bucket eight seconds ahead of the first-quarter horn, and Jay County led 14-12 after one.

Alyssa "Peanut" Semler tied the game with a basket early in the second quarter. The Patriots hit a basket, but a Cloie York free throw plus two Laila Smith buckets sandwiched around one by Tabor enabled New Castle to run off seven straight points for a 21-16 advantage at the 3:10 mark of the second period.

Patriot freshman Madison Dirksen hit back-to-back baskets to pull the visitors to within one point again at 21-20 with 2:07 remaining in the first half, but Trojan freshman Karsen Morgan answered with a three-pointer to put the hosts up by four at 24-20.

Caldwell hit a pair of charity tosses and Dirksen a basket, sandwiched around two Tabor free throws, and New Castle clung to a 26-24 lead 53 seconds before intermission.

But the Trojans worked the ball around and York nailed a shot from beyond the arc to boost the New Castle advantage to five at 29-24 with 14 seconds left. Jay County came down and missed a shot, the ball went out of bounds, and the hosts were awarded possession of it with 2.3 seconds left in the half.

New Castle got the ball to Tabor near the left sideline at mid-court, and Tabor flung the ball at the hoop as time expired. The sphere swished through the net, giving the Trojans a 32-24 lead at intermission.

New Castle was 13-for-31 from the field and 3-of-4 from the foul stripe in the opening 16 minutes, while Jay County was 9-of-26 from the floor and 2-of-2 from the free throw line.

Any momentum for New Castle from that dramatic ending to the first half evaporated quickly at the start of the third quarter.

The Trojans were held scoreless for almost four minutes and Caldwell hit her fourth three-pointer of the evening, Dirksen added a basket, and senior Kendra Muhlenkamp hit consecutive baskets for a 9-0 Patriot run to put the visitors ahead 33-32 with 4:57 remaining in the third period.

"I think we were too pumped up at halftime," Swift remarked. "We came out and struggled to open the third quarter and I had to call timeout to calm them down. After that, we started playing better again."

Tabor finally broke the scoreless drought for the hosts with a basket at the 4:18 mark to restore the lead to the Trojans. It was short-lived as Caldwell scored at the other end, but missed the opportunity for a three-point play, and the visitors led 35-34.

Semler then buried a three-pointer and Tabor a bucket for a 39-35 New Castle advantage with 2:26 left in the third quarter. No one score again until Muhlenkamp sank a buzzer-beating trey, and the Trojans had a narrow 39-38 lead after three.

No one scored in the opening minute of the fourth quarter until Muhlenkamp hit a pair of charity tosses at the 6:21 mark to restore a 41-40 lead to Jay County. Tabor hit a bucket nine seconds later to give the advantage back to New Castle.

Caldwell then hit a pair of free throws and Maddie Dirksen drained a pair of baskets to give Jay County its largest lead of the game at 46-41 with 3:53 remaining in the contest.

After a Patriot timeout. York sank her second three-pointer of the game 13 second later to pull the Trojans to within 46-44. Jay County attempted to milk clock but turned the ball over after a big block by Smith.

Tabor tied the game 46-46 with a basket at the 2:34 mark. Caldwell briefly gave the Patriots a one-point lead by hitting one of two free throws with 2:19 left. York then came down and nailed another three-pointer 16 seconds later, putting New Castle in the lead for good at 49-47.

"I couldn't have done what I did without my teammates getting me the ball when I was open," York said. "Everyone on our team stepped up and performed their role tonight, and that's what we need in order to win."

From then on, it was a matter of holding on for the hosts, and Smith hit a big bucket off an assist from Tabor with 1:06 left in the contest to put the hosts up by four points at 51-47.

The final minute was tense, but no more scoring occurred, and New Castle got the hard-earned victory.

"After the game, I went into the locker room and read off the name of every individual with a point or a rebound," Swift explained. "Our contributions were spread out, and that's what we need in order to win our games. We don't do well when only one or two girls carry the load. Cloie hit two big shots and Laila got a big block that fourth quarter to help us win."

The Trojans finished the game 21-of-53 from the field and 3-of-5 from the free throw line. The Patriots countered with 17-of-47 from the floor and 7-of-10 from the charity stripe.

Tabor had a double-double for New Castle with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Smith had 12 points and eight rebounds, and York 10 points and four boards. McGowan corralled four caroms.

For Jay County, Caldwell had game highs of 21 points and 13 rebounds, Maddie Dirksen had 14 points and five boards, and Muhlenkamp scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds.

The Patriots won the junior varsity game 42-36. Aubrie Schwieterman scored 17 points to lead Jay County while Karsen Morgan had a game-high 21 points for the Trojans.

New Castle travels to Connersville Tuesday.

New Castle 51, Jay County 47

JAY COUNTY (47)

Phillips 0-3 0-0 0, Muhlenkamp 3-11 2-3 9, Dillon 1-2 0-0 3, C. Dirksen 0-0 0-0 0, Caldwell 6-20 5-7 21, Fields 0-1 0-0 0, Garringer 0-0 0-0 0, M. Dirksen 7-10 0-0 14, Schwieterman 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-47 7-10 47.

NEW CASTLE (51)

McGowan 2-5 0-0 4, York 3-9 1-3 10, Semler 2-6 0-0 5, Tabor 7-20 2-2 17, Smith 6-10 0-0 12, Alspaugh 0-2 0-0 0, Morgan 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 21-53 3-5 51.

Jay County`14`10`14`9`-47

New Castle`12`20`7`12`-51

3-point goals – Jay County 6 (Caldwell 4, Muhlenkamp, Dillon), New Castle 6 (York 3, Semler, Tabor, Morgan). Rebounds – Jay County 32 (Caldwell 13, Muhlenkamp 5, M. Dirksen 5), New Castle 32 (Tabor 10, Smith 8, McGowan 4, York 4). Total fouls – Jay County 12, New Castle 10. Turnovers – Jay County 9, New Castle 6. JV score – Jay County 42, New Castle 36. Records – Jay County 2-5, New Castle 4-5.