OSKALOOSA — Enough was enough.
With a six-game losing streak in the books this season and two demoralizing losses to Oskaloosa last season, the Newton boys basketball team put both of those things in the past Friday night.
Behind a balanced scoring effort and effective closing in the second half, the Cardinals (3-6, 1-3 Little Hawkeye Conference) earned their first conference win and first victory overall since Nov. 29 with a 58-45 victory over the rival Indians in Oskaloosa.
"Those losses were still fresh on our minds, especially the one here, so it was great to get this win," Newton senior Collin Reynolds said of last season. "Since Christmas break we've had two tough losses we've played really well in but didn't finish, so it was good to come through in a close game."
Even with coach Nick Wilkins out of town for the game, Newton's offense was clicking from the opening whistle. Senior Jesse Bates and sophomore Tyler Wood scored the Cards' first eight points and the teams went blow-for-blow in the first few minutes. Newton easily handled an early press by the Indians, which led to two 3-pointers from Wood and six points overall for Bates in the quarter as Newton led 15-11.
"We were just executing everything the coaches were telling us to do," Wood said. "It's pretty easy to break a press when you do that, and it led to some open shots that we were hitting."
Newton junior Chandler Sturtz opened the second-quarter scoring with a trey, but things began to get a little heated on the court. After a number of contested charge/block calls went Osky's way, the Indians made their move and eventually regained the lead at 24-23.
However, the Cards quickly recovered and regained the lead thanks to four straight points from Reynolds from offensive rebounds. Wood closed out the half with a pair of free throws and the Cards took a 29-24 lead and some confidence into the break after holding Osky leading scorer Tyce Sarver to just eight points.
"We knew we could shut them down, we just had to keep our composure," Reynolds said. "A few calls didn't go our way, but that shouldn't affect the game. We just had to play our style and focus on the defensive end."
Reynolds picked up where he left off at the beginning of the second half with four quick points, and the Cards held the Indians scoreless until a basket at the 4:45 mark of the quarter. As Osky began to get a little careless with the ball, Newton got a few more points from Wood, sophomore Nick Easley and junior Daquan Allen to build its lead up to 13 points going into the final frame.
Oskaloosa made its final push at the beginning of the fourth quarter as Sarver answered a three by Newton senior Andrew Clements and the Indians managed a 7-3 run to start the quarter. Sarver then hit another three after a timeout, but Wood answered on the other end and a basket by Easley restored Newton's lead back to 11 with about four minutes left to play.
“It felt great not to have them come back,” Wood said. “When they had the little comeback in the second half, we didn’t want to have what happened last year happen again.”
With the Newton lead fluctuating between nine and 11 points down the stretch, the Cards properly closed things out. Reynolds took a big charge on what could’ve been Osky’s final basket, and Clements iced the game at the free-throw line by going 4-6 in the game’s final minutes.
Wood led the Cardinals with 15 points in the game, while Reynolds and Clements each finished with 10. It was the type of win Newton has been wanting for a while now, and it couldn’t have come at a better time with four conference games in the next 10 days. The Cards will host Pella (7-4, 3-2) on Tuesday in the first test of that stretch.
“We know we can play at this level, we’ve just had those couple of tough losses,” Reynolds said. “We’ve switched the lineups up a little, so that should give us a good boost going into Pella on Tuesday. If we get a win there, hey, we’re back to two wins in the conference.”
Newton 58, Oskaloosa 45
N — 15 14 15 14 — 58
O — 11 13 17 14 — 45
N — Wood 15, Clements 10, Reynolds 10, Bates 8, Easley 8, Allen 4, Sturtz 3
O — Sarver 21, Redlich 8, Reiter 6, DeJong 4, Tucker 4