PELLA — Going into Tuesday night's game, Newton boys basketball coach Nick Wilkins wanted to keep the ball away from Pella Christian senior Austin Ver Meer.
That plan worked for a while, but it was the Eagles' supporting cast that did most of the damage in a 65-34 victory over the Cardinals to earn the season sweep and drop Newton to 4-9 overall and 1-6 in the Little Hawkeye Conference.
"We knew he was a key, and Collin Reynolds did a great job blocking him out tonight," Wilkins said of Ver Meer. "He's heavier and five inches taller, but I think Collin did a nice job. We just didn't have our guards rebounding down, so he was still able to get his hands on the ball."
It was Pella Christian senior Blake Riggen that was doing the scoring in the first quarter as the Eagles got out to an early lead. Newton senior Jesse Bates got the Cards’ first tally on the board, but the Eagles were able to push their advantage to 14-4 in the first quarter thanks to a plethora of offensive rebounds.
Newton’s offense made its move in the second, however, as sophomore Tyler Wood opened the quarter with a 3-pointer and Reynolds earned three more to close the gap to 16-10. Wood, Reynolds and Bates would get the score even closer as the quarter wound down, but a three-point play from Ver Meer gave the Eagles a bit of breathing room.
However, Reynolds hit a mid-range baseline jumper just before the buzzer, sending the Cards into halftime with only a 25-18 deficit to work against.
“We had a few good defensive possessions in a row, and that’s really where the key was for us,” Wilkins said. “We needed to make stops, contest shots and get rebounds, then we just executed some sets and that’s how we got back into the game. Since Christmas time, that’s just what this team has done — fight.”
The game quickly swung back to the Eagles in the third thanks to a 7-1 run to open the second half. Newton wasn’t getting much help from the guys in stripes either, as the foul total was 21-6 in favor of Pella Christian at one point. This was also the time that Ver Meer started to clean up missed shots and totaled six late points to help the Eagles carry a 44-23 lead into the fourth.
“They just started executing their stuff and hitting some shots,” Wilkins said. “And to be quite honest, this is two games in a row the officials didn’t do us any favors. Did that cost us the game? Absolutely not, but it would’ve been interesting to see what could’ve happened if fouls weren’t 21-6.”
The game became a glorified free-throw contest in the fourth, with 22 attempts taken between the two teams. However, Newton’s bench managed some noticeable play in the game’s final minutes. Pella Christian kept its foot on the gas though, effectively ending the game with a steady stream of points to counteract Newton’s bench.
“When our bench guys get the opportunity, they come in, play hard and execute,” Wilkins said. “Like I said, since Christmas we’ve been a different team. The win-loss doesn’t show it, but the fans and coaching staff know it’s a different team to watch now. That’s all we can ask for.”
Reynolds finished with nine points to lead the Cards, while Bates finished with eight. Ver Meer ended up leading all scorers with 16, and the Eagles had three double-digit scorers and 11 total players make the book.
The Cards will try to rebound on Friday when they travel to Knoxville for the first meeting with the Panthers this season.
Pella Christian 65, Newton 34
N — 4 14 5 11 — 34
P — 14 11 19 21— 65
N — Reynolds 9, Bates 8, Wood 5, Easley 4, Glotfelty 3, Thompson 3, Barr 2
P — Ver Meer 16, Stursma 11, Baugh 10, Blake Riggen 8, Collins 5, Chase Riggen 4, Van Vark 3, Van Wyk 3, Morgan 2, Stravers 2, Boot 1