The Newton girls basketball team cruised to victory last night against Pella High despite trailing 4-12 early and 18-23 at half. The team snapped a three game losing streak by charging back in the second half. The comeback was facilitated mostly by their improved effort on the defensive end after halftime.
Coach Brandon Sharp emphasized one key point at halftime. “On offense we just have to control what we can control and not try to do too much.” Sharp added, “It’s all about making good decisions, and although we had 23 turnovers I feel we did a decent job of that tonight.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement of his team’s offensive showing
They turned turnovers and missed shots into points by pushing the ball up the floor and making quick, good decisions on the break. Most of the credit for the latter should go to Kaylie Rhoads, who shredded the Pella defense in the second half by getting herself and her teammates solid looks to score inside in transition.
The game started off very sloppily. Both teams committed a slew of turnovers, but neither managed to score much off the break due to both teams’ effort to get back on defense. Although watching that style of basketball can be frustrating, the effort both teams gave in getting back on defense was commendable. The effort was all-in for both teams and it was fun (and very frustrating) to watch.
The offense of Newton may have stalled completely had Shelby Gray not come off the bench in the second quarter and promptly make two baskets to keep the Cardinals in the game on the scoreboard. Towards the end of the second quarter Newton began to find their groove on offense a little bit better, passing through the zone defense presented by Pella.
Pella’s No. 41 Jessica Holterhaus tore up the Cardinals in the paint early with eight points, but was unable to return following the intermission likely due some sort of injury. Whether or not this was the reason for the Cardinals’ successes on defense in the second half is debatable.
After Holterhaus worked the post defense of Newton in the first half, Sharp emphasized keeping Pella out of the paint. “Our main message was we’ve got to keep them as far away from the basket as we can.” Sharp explained, “We’ve got to really focus on defense and hold them to fewer easy points.”
That message apparently resonated with the players because they came out in the second half playing with much more purpose. The zone defense had them clumped in the middle early, unable to get many easy looks inside. In the third quarter, Newton spread out on offense, forcing Pella to switch to man. Then, they attacked the hoop relentlessly and were rewarded with plenty of free throws.
Despite the team’s marked improvement on both ends of the floor, Sharp still saw plenty of places where they can get better.
“Our communication needs to improve on offense yes, but mostly on defense. The help defense needs to get much better.” He added, “We have the ability to clean that up. They can be good, just right now we are opening ourselves up inside way too much.”
The lady Cardinals will be looking to build off this solid victory in their contest with Norwalk this Friday.