Following an eight-point loss to Norwalk on Friday, Newton girls basketball coach Brandon Sharp said he wanted to see more out of the team’s defense.
While he saw a few different faces of that defense Monday night, it was still able to get the job done and leave Norwalk in the past.
The Cardinals (2-3, 0-1 Little Hawkeye Conference) held Marshalltown to just two points in the first quarter, but had to fend off a late Bobcat charge to hang on for a 38-31 victory. Newton is now 2-0 at home this season.
“Defensively, I thought we really got to play our game,” Sharp said. “We didn’t really get to go as deep as we want to, but the more we start playing this up-and-down tempo, the time will come where we can go deeper.”
The Cards may have held Marshalltown in check in the first quarter, but they weren’t exactly lighting it up, either. Senior Kristin Samson got Newton on the board first with a coast-to-coast layup before fellow senior Kaylie Rhoads sunk a pair of free throws for a 4-2 Newton lead. Sophomore Michaela Jacobson then added three more points in the closing minutes to give the Cards a slim 7-2 lead.
“Defense is definitely what this team is about,” Sharp said. “We’re offensively challenged, so we’ve got to lean on our defense and our transition game quite heavily to get shots when we can.”
Offense came a little bit easier for Newton in the second, as Rhoads scored the team’s first four points before Samson and senior Anna Latcham got involved as well. Marshalltown’s Lauren Mazour scored the Bobcats’ first points since their opening possession with a minute to go in the half to end Marshalltown’s skid, and Newton took just a 17-6 lead into halftime.
Things changed quickly at the beginning of the third as Bobcats opened the frame with a 9-3 run. Sophomore Sarah Kalkhoff contributed four points off the bench to help Newton rebuild its lead, but Marshalltown clearly had regained the confidence it was lacking during its offensive struggles earlier in the game.
“It came down to us not boxing out or rotating our defense when some did get beat,” Sharp said. “Then they hit their first few shots and that kind of got them rolling, and in the first half they had 14 shots right under their basket that they didn’t make. When you give a team that many shots in the second half, they’re going to make some.”
That confidence came to a head when the Bobcats scored six quick points to cut the deficit to just six points. Although the Cardinals missed their fair share of easy buckets, Rhoads was helping maintain the lead with a few big shots of her own. Despite her efforts, however, Marshalltown cut the lead to 34-31 with just 1:25 to go.
Although the Cards then missed three free throws in a row, their defense held strong and allowed junior Lizzie Stock to essentially ice the game with two successful free throws. Newton then wrapped up the last few possessions with solid rebounding and good overall defense.
“We asked the girls when (Marshalltown) was making that run if they thought the game was slipping away, and nobody raised their hand,” Sharp said. “That’s exactly what I think this team is capable of _ they didn’t panic. We stayed composed and even with a minute-and-a-half left, we were still on our game of trying to get quick shots rather than worry about clock situations.”
Rhoads led all scorers with 16 points. The Cardinals will return to conference action when they host Pella Christian on Friday in the second game of a five-game homestand.
Newton 38, Marshalltown 31
M — 2 4 10 15 — 31
N — 7 10 9 12 — 38
M — Mazour 9, Oden 9, A. Hughes 5, Boland 4, Banks 2, S. Hughes 2
N — Rhoads 16, Samson 8, Jacobson 5, Kalkhoff 4, Stock 3, Latcham 2