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Trojans beat Patriots to advance to championship game

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Jay County’s Shelby Caldwell (44) finds it difficult to get a shot off against the defense of New Castle’s Laila Smith (32) as the Trojans’ Cameron Tabor (20) and Karsen Morgan (13) plus the Patriots’ Hallie Fields (14) watch during the first half of Saturday night’s girls basketball semifinal game of Class 3A Sectional 24 in the Fieldhouse. Caldwell had 17 points and seven rebounds, but Tabor had a double-double of 27 points and 12 rebounds and Smith contributed 12 points and nine boards as New Castle won 60-47 to advance to Monday night’s championship game.
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New Castle’s Cloie York (3) is surrounded by Jay County defenders Hanna Dillon (22) and Madison Dirksen (42) as the Trojans’ Cameron Tabor (20) awaits a pass during the girls basketball semifinal game of Class 3A Sectional 24 in the Fieldhouse.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

Sometimes it’s difficult to defeat another team twice in the same season, particularly when that other time is riding a hot streak. But that’s what the New Castle High School girls basketball team did Saturday night in the semifinals of Class 3A Sectional 24 in the Fieldhouse.

The Trojans defeated Jay County 60-47 in Saturday’s second game to punch its ticket to Monday night’s championship game against Hamilton Heights, who defeated Muncie Burris easily 54-16 in Saturday’s first game.

New Castle won for the eighth time in its past nine games and improved to 15-9. Jay County bowed out of the tournament with a 17-8 record.

“We’re really happy to have won this game to move on the Monday’s sectional championship game,” New Castle Coach Molly Swift said afterward. “Everyone who played contributed something to the victory. Our defense played really well most of the game, and that spurt we had in the second quarter gave us a cushion to work with in the second half.”

The Patriots came into the game against New Castle on a nine-game winning streak and had been victorious in 15 of their past 16 games, but the Trojan defense disrupted Jay County’s offense time and again to record the 13-point win.

New Castle also had allowed 47 points to the Patriots when the Trojans won 51-47 in the first meeting between the two teams in the Fieldhouse back on Nov. 29. Jay County’s Shelby Caldwell had produced game-highs of 21 points and 13 rebounds that night while freshman teammate Madison Dirksen had chipped in 13 points and five boards.

Both of those players were held under those totals in the rematch, as Caldwell scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Dirksen had just a single point and corralled only two caroms.

On Saturday, the Trojans were led by Cameron Tabor’s double-double of 27 points and 12 rebounds, while Laila Smith, the tall and rangy post presence the Green and White lacked last season, also had a fine outing with 12 points (on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor) and nine boards.

“I just tried to hold my position, score if I got the ball inside, and do what I could to help our team win,” Smith said after the game. “I’ve won a sectional in volleyball and we want to get a sectional championship in basketball to go along with it.”

New Castle harassed the Patriots into seven first-quarter turnovers but couldn’t convert many into points. The tourney hosts were just 5-of-16 from the field in the opening period, compared to 4-of-5 for Jay County, and the first quarter ended in a 10-10 tie.

Smith scored six points in the first period for the Trojans while Caldwell had four for the Patriots.

The Patriots concluded an 11-2 run (that began midway through the opening period) with two Kendra Muhlenkamp baskets in the first minute of the second quarter to give Jay County its largest lead of the contest at 14-10.

Then it was time for New Castle to go on a run that proved to be the decisive one during the game, which put some distance between it and the Patriots.

The Trojans exploded for 16 consecutive points from the 7:19 mark of the period to 1:44 remaining in the first half. Five girls got in the fun for New Castle, as Macayla McGowan and Tabor tallied five points apiece, Alyssa “Peanut” Semler nailed a three-pointer, Smith hit a basket off a great pass from Tabor, and Maddy Meek added a charity toss as the hosts grabbed a 26-14 advantage.

Caldwell finally broke a scoreless spell of exactly six minutes for the Patriots with a basket, and Hannah Phillips drained a shot from beyond the arc to pull Jay County to within 26-19 with 1:01 remaining in the first half.

The Trojans eventually held the ball for the last shot before halftime, and Tabor launched the sphere with about three seconds left that hung on the rim for a second before falling through the hoop for a trey giving the Green and White a 29-19 lead at intermission.  

The Patriots shot 8-for-16 (50 percent) from the field in the opening half, but committed 12 turnovers to just four for New Castle. The Trojans were 12-of-30 (40 percent) from the floor in the first 16 minutes. Each team shot a pair of free throws in the first half, with Jay County missing both and New Castle hitting one.

Tabor and Semler drained three-pointers to open the third quarter, sandwiched around a pair of free throws from the Patriots’ Hallie Fields, and Tabor added another bucket to boost the Trojan advantage to 37-21 at the 4:57 mark of the period, prompting a Jay County timeout two seconds later.

Whatever Patriots coach Kirk Comer said to his troops worked for a while, as Caldwell and Madison Dirksen hit a charity toss apiece, Phillips drained another trey, Muhlenkamp hit a basket, and Caldwell sank a pair of free throws for a 9-0 Jay County run that trimmed the Trojan lead to 37-30 with 2:37 left in the third quarter.

Then it was Tabor time for the tourney hosts, as the senior hit three consecutive buckets to end the period to enable New Castle to extend its lead to 43-30 after three.

Smith tallied a bucket off another fine assist from Tabor, Cloie York nailed a three-pointer, and McGowan hit a basket which were offset by only a Caldwell charity toss, and the Trojan lead grew to 50-31 with 5:23 left in the fourth quarter.

Caldwell hit a bucket, but Meek hit 1-of-2 free throws and Tabor added a pair 23 seconds later to boost the Trojan advantage to its zenith at 53-33 with 4:04 remaining in the contest.

It was at this point that the Patriots became desperate, resorted to a full-court press, and did manage to turn New Castle over some. Jay County scored seven consecutive points to trim the Trojan lead to 53-40 with 2:26 remaining in the contest, prompting a timeout by Coach Swift.

The Patriots did eventually whittle the New Castle lead below double digits at 56-47 after a Muhlenkamp basket with 1:06 left in the game, but those proved to be the final Jay County points.

Coach Comer tossed in the towel the final minute, the Trojans got a Smith bucket and two more Tabor free throws, and the tourney hosts celebrated their 60-47 victory.

New Castle ended up with a 34-31 edge on the glass and committed eight of their 14 turnovers in the final period, but those miscues with the ball still were six fewer than Jay County’s 20.

The Trojans shot 10-for-20 from the field in the second half and finished the game with 22-of-50 (44 percent) marksmanship from the floor and 9-of-15 (60 percent) accuracy from the free throw line.

The Patriots could muster only 7-of-27 (25.9 percent) firing from the field in the second half and ended up 15-of-43 (34.9 percent) from the floor and 13-of-22 (59.1 percent) from the charity stripe.

In addition to the contributions from Tabor and Smith, New Castle got nine points from McGowan, six from Semler, four from York, and two from Meek. York and Meek corralled three caroms apiece.

For Jay County in addition to Caldwell, Muhlenkamp had 12 points and four rebounds, Phillips scored 11 points, and Fields had four boards.

New Castle lost at Hamilton Heights 41-35 in a Saturday matinee game last Dec. 15. The Trojans had leads in that contest, but didn’t shoot well overall and fell by six points.


New Castle 60, Jay County 47


McGowan 4-6 0-0 9, York 1-7 1-3 4, Semler 2-6 0-0 6, Tabor 9-17 6-8 27, Smith 6-7 0-0 12, Morgan 0-7 0-0 0, Alspaugh 0-0 0-0 0, Meek 0-0 2-4 2. Totals 22-50 9-15 60.


Phillips 3-9 2-2 11, Muhlenkamp 6-8 0-0 12, Dillon 1-2 0-2 3, M. Dirksen 0-3 1-2 1, Caldwell 5-15 7-12 17, Fields 0-3 2-2 2, C. Dirksen 0-1 1-2 1, Schweiterman 0-1 0-0 0, Garringer 0-1 0-0 0, Weitzel 0-0 0-0 0, Saxman 0-0 0-0 0, Denny 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-43 13-22 47.

New Castle`10`19`14`17`-60

Jay County`10`9`11`17`-47

3-point goals – New Castle 7 (Tabor 3, Semler 2, McGowan, York), Jay County 4 (Phillips 3, Dillon). Rebounds – New Castle 34 (Tabor 12, Smith 9), Jay County 31 (Caldwell 7, Muhlenkamp 4, Fields 4). Total fouls – New Castle 18, Jay County 19. Turnovers – New Castle 14, Jay County 20. Fouled out – Dillon. Records – New Castle 15-9, Jay County 17-8.