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Arabians hold off Eagles for third place

Jan. 7—LAPEL — In a tournament setting, the third-place contest is the one game where neither participant really wants to be there. They would both much rather be playing in the championship game than competing for the top consolation prize.

Such was likely the case for both Pendleton Heights and Frankton on Saturday evening as the two programs that are used to playing for championships faced off for third place in the Madison County Girls Basketball Tournament on Lapel's Jimmie Howell Court.

But there was little indication by the play on the court as Kaycie Warfel scored 24 points and the Arabians rebounded from a heartbreaking semifinal loss to Lapel on Thursday to hold off a valiant Frankton effort with a 48-42 win to claim that third-place prize.

The Arabians and Eagles both stand at 11-6 on the season with just three weeks remaining before sectional play begins.

Even in defeat, first-year Frankton coach Jeff Bates continues to see improvement from his Eagles team that led early and surged late but could not overcome a strong Pendleton Heights' effort after halftime.

"All in all, 15 minutes in the first half was fantastic and maybe 14 minutes of the second half was fantastic," Bates said. "We're closer and closer to that 32 minutes."

After leading 14-10 heading into the second quarter, the Eagles took their biggest lead at 21-15 on an Emma Sperry basket in the lane.

But the Arabians finished the half on an 11-2 run, capped by an ill-timed Frankton foul with less than a second left that led to PH sophomore Olivia Jones making three free throw attempts for a 26-23 halftime advantage.

"I was very, very happy up until that last minute when we lost our minds there for a minute," Bates said. "We should have been able to come into the locker room tied or in the lead, but we made a couple silly mistakes, and they capitalized on it."

Baskets by Emma Sperry and Lainey Hamaker pulled the Eagles within one at 28-27 late in the third quarter, but PH's Makayla Morrison scored late in the period to kick off a 17-2 run to give the Arabians a seemingly comfortable 44-29 lead after an Adah Hupfer score.

But the Eagles did not surrender.

Sophia Hoagland and Sperry made consecutive 3-point baskets as Frankton went on a 12-2 run of its own to pull within 46-41 on another Sperry basket.

Warfel then answered with a layup — on an assist from younger sister Aubree — to seal the win for the Arabians.

"Sophia did a fantastic job," Bates said. "She helped put us in a position to maybe snatch one from the jaws of defeat, so to speak. It was nice to be in that position. They worked hard."

PH will travel to New Palestine on Friday where it can clinch an outright Hoosier Heritage Conference championship while Frankton visits Tipton on Thursday before hosting Central Indiana Conference-rival Madison-Grant on Jan. 13.

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.