Senior Kristin Samson served as a shining example of calm under pressure for the Newton girls basketball team on Thursday night in the Cardinals' home opener against Saydel.
After trailing much of the game, sophomore Shelby Gray's layup in the final minutes put the Cards ahead by just one point — that's where Samson came in.
Samson headed to the line and sank an easy pair of foul shots, putting Newton ahead by three.
Then, for good measure and a little security, she sank five more free throws, going 7-for-8 at the line in the final minute of the game to push the Cards to a 44-36 win.
"I was just thinking, 'I have to make them,'" Samson said. "Without making them, the team could have lost. I didn't want to regret it, I wanted to capitalize on that. When Shelby hit her layup to go ahead, that was the turning point for me and I was thinking, let's keep the lead, let's not let them come back."
This mindset is just what Newton head coach Brandon Sharp expected out of Samson following Tuesday's loss at Winterset.
"We challenged her before our last game and she answered the call last night in practice and today," he said of the senior guard. "She did the things she needed to and she led her team to the win tonight."
Samson and Gray's baskets late in the fourth quarter were enough to pull the Cards over the Eagles (2-1) for Newton's first victory of the season, putting the team at 1-2 on the year.
After tough losses by 33 and 38 points at Perry and Winterset, respectively, Newton's resiliance against Saydel gave both the team and Cardinal fans something to smile about.
"It was nice to get a win after losing the first two games," Samson added. "It's always great to get a win in the first home game."
Sharp echoed the sentiment, but emphasized that the team is continually looking ahead to its next opponent.
"Tonight was definitely a confidence builder," Sharp said. "We have a 24-hour rule where we can enjoy a win or suffer a loss for 24 hours. Tomorrow when practice rolls around, we don't remember this and we move onto the next game."
With a rare full week to prepare, the Cards will head to Norwalk next Friday in a game Sharp knows will challenge his team.
"We play Norwalk next in a tough conference game, so we've got some work to do before we play them," he said.
"Hopefully the momentum will carry on," added Samson, in reference to the Cards' conference opener. Newton will tip off at Norwalk next Friday at 6:15.