Dragons slay Cardinals’ season in first round, 47-22

JOHNSTON — The Newton girls basketball team has grown in leaps and bounds from the team that struggled out of the gate way back at the beginning of the season in November. A 1-10 start was quickly offset with a 4-2 finish in the last six games of the regular season.

Unfortunately, many of the Cardinals’ demons from the beginning of the season returned on Monday and led to a tough season-ending 47-22 loss to Johnston in the first round of the Class 4A regional tournament.

“Once again, I would say that everything we messed up was something we can control,” Newton coach Brandon Sharp said. “We’re still learning, even in our 21st game, and we’re still young. The one positive is this is the last time we’ll have to play these teams to get to state.”

Newton trailed the whole game, including before any time even went off the clock as Johnston converted two free throws on an administrative technical foul for not getting the team’s scorebook out in time before the game. Despite that and a plethora of Cardinal turnovers, Newton only trailed 10-5 after the first quarter.

“It all started in the first quarter and, in all honesty, it started when they got to shoot some free throws on my part,” Sharp said. “I really feel that played a role in how we came out because it’s hard to start a game when you’re already down.”

Senior Liz Mount closed the gap to 10-7 at the beginning of the second quarter, but it all went downhill for Newton from there. That would be the Cards’ only basket of the frame while the Dragons proceeded to fire off an 11-0 run to increase their lead to 21-7 at halftime.

“For us playing as bad as we did, we still felt fine,” Sharp said. “We knew it was going to be a dogfight every possession, so we were kind of fortunate there to only be down 14.”

Johnston kept the pressure on in third quarter and opened with two quick baskets. Newton junior Kaylie Rhoads broke up the run with a steal under the basket and subsequent free throw, but the Cardinals would only managed a few more points on free throws by sophomore Michaela Bleeker.

Trailing by 20 going into the fourth, Newton was able to get some momentum going in the final quarter and end the game on a more positive note. A fullcourt press forced multiple Dragon turnovers and led to points on the other end for the Cards, and their offensive sets began to see some results as well.

When all was said and done, however, it was still a 47-22 victory for the Dragons at the final buzzer.

“I’d say we finished off all effort in the fourth quarter,” Sharp said. “It seemed like we actually came to play in the fourth quarter and we got worked up. It’s tough going out this way, but it’s nice to finish off with that effort by the girls.”

Regardless of records and what happened in the regular season, it was still a tough loss for Newton. But now that they were forced to go into reminiscence mode about the season, they were able to realize the stride they made going from a 1-10 team to one that upset Pella and finished fifth in the Little Hawkeye Conference.

“They thank me for their progress this year and how much better they’ve gotten, but I refuse to take any of the credit for anything this year. The girls are the ones that deserve everything,” Sharp said. “They’re the ones that actually put in the hard work every day, so I just thank them for their effort.”

Sharp ended the season by expressing his excitement for next season. The Cards will lose Mount, their only senior, but will be able to return four starters and all of the key players that came off the bench this season. Rather than rely on past accolades, though, Sharp hopes the Cards will continue the hard work they gave this past year.

“We’ve got a chance to do some special things next year, but that’s a long ways away,” Sharp said. “We talked about how good teams are made from November to March, but good players are made from April to October.”

Johnston 47, Newton 22

Score by quarter
N — 5 2 6 9 — 22
J — 10 11 12 14 — 47

Individual scorers
N —Rhoads 7, Samson 3, Bleeker 2, Karsten 2, Latcham 2, Marquis 2, Mount 2, Stock 2
J — Wilkinson 19, Riley 13, Hildreth 6, Joens 6, Kerr 3