Last season, it took the Newton girls basketball team 15 games to earn three wins. This time around, the Cardinals were able to do it in seven.
The obvious improvement could be credited to the continuity from the 2011-12 season, in which Newton became a new team in the second half of the season. Although the Cards (3-4, 0-2 Little Hawkeye Conference) still have had some struggles in the early part of this season, they have also shown just how much they have improved in a year.
Newton had a tough stretch to open the season as it faced ranked teams in Perry (No. 8 in Class 4A) and Winterset (No. 9), both on the road. After losing those games by a combined score of 141-70, the Cards recovered for their first win of the year against Saydel on Nov. 29. Senior Kristin Samson can be given a lot of the credit in that win, as she scored 24 of the Cards’ 44 total points.
The Cardinals have since traded wins and losses in the past five games. They included a tough 45-38 loss at Norwalk in the conference-opening game, a 38-31 win over Marshalltown, a 45-34 loss to Pella Christian and a 69-42 victory over Centerville.
Defense has undoubtedly been the strong point for the Cardinals so far this season. No game demonstrated that better than the 45-34 loss to Pella Christian, which is currently ranked No. 11 in Class 2A. Newton held a 17-16 lead at halftime and trailed by two going into the fourth quarter, but PC senior Paige Engbers made her mark with two big threes and led a 16-7 run that closed out the game.
Newton’s last game was a 69-42 victory over Centerville on Dec. 15. Due to the weather, a final game before break against Knoxville was postponed for Feb. 7 and a home showdown with Bondurant-Farrar was moved to Jan. 17. Therefore, it will be nearly three weeks between games when the Cardinals return to action at Ballard on Jan. 3.
Senior Kaylie Rhoads leads the Cardinals in scoring with 11.7 points per game, Samson is next with 7.6, senior Michelle Marquis is at 4.2 and senior Anna Latcham and sophomores Shelby Gray and Sarah Kalkhoff are each around three per game. Senior Katelyn Camp leads the team with 5.3 rebounds per game, while Kalkhoff is averaging 4.9 off the bench, Rhoads is at 4.7 and Latcham sits at 4.1.