Players are expected to listen to coaches, but on Tuesday night, Newton senior Collin Reynolds proved that coaches should listen to their players.
Although sophomore Tyler Wood was supposed to go to the free-throw line for some late shots, Reynolds stepped up and hit what turned out to be two big shots.
"We were trying to get Tyler the ball and he got fouled, but then he looked at me and said 'I got it,'" Newton coach Nick Wilkins said with a laugh. "Then he made the first one, but it bounced around for a little bit, and he just looked at us. I told him to at least smile about that one."
Those free throws, paired with two more and an inbounds steal by Wood, helped Newton sneak past Carlisle, 63-60, Tuesday night.
Things didn't start out very well for Newton (6-9, 2-6 Little Hawkeye Conference), however, as Carlisle was scoring at will in the first half. The Cards were able to keep pace thanks to a strong first quarter by senior Jesse Bates, but still trailed 20-18 after one.
"They came out and punched us in the face a few times early tonight," Wilkins said. "To be honest, we just didn't come out with much energy. Usually when we give up 35 points in a half, it's a bad, bad result for us. That's a game we would've lost last year."
Carlisle sophomore Jared Veith put some extra pressure on Newton in the second with a few 3-pointers, but a boost off the bench by senior Andrew Clements kept Newton within striking distance. The Wildcats once had their lead at seven points, but a late three by Newton sophomore Nick Easley cut the halftime deficit to 35-31.
Newton got quick buckets from Bates and Easley to tie things up in the third, but Carlisle made a switch from man-to-man to a zone, which slowed Newton down for a few minutes. However, Wood had the remedy for that with treys on three straight possessions, which rejuvenated the Newton crowd and helped put the Cards up 47-42 going into the fourth.
“They switched to the zone and coach just told me to go to the corner,” Wood said. “We got some good passes and ball reversals, and I was just able to hit them.”
A Carlisle run in the fourth felt imminent, but Newton was able to keep the points coming to hold it off. It wasn’t until about 28 seconds were left that the Wildcats did make a move, which left Newton up just 59-57. That was when Reynolds sunk the two aforementioned free throws, putting additional pressure on Carlisle.
Wildcat Akol Dok responded on the other end with a three, reducing Newton’s lead back to one point. Wood took over from there, however, draining a pair of free throws and stealing the ensuing inbounds pass to kill the clock and allow the Cards to escape with the victory.
“Free throws have kind of been one of those things for us this year where you never know what you’re going to get,” Wilkins said. “And I’m glad Tyler made that play because we were going to foul them, which is something I really don’t like to do.”
Newton has now won two games in a row entering the home stretch of the season. With just six games remaining on the schedule, now would be the perfect time to peak. But a major test is coming up on Friday at Grinnell, which is currently at the top of the conference with a 13-3 record.
“We’ve kind of been on a hot streak lately and we’ve just been playing really well in general,” Wood said. “We’re going to keep playing hard like we’ve been doing. We’ll play better defense than we did tonight.”
Newton 63, Carlisle 60
C — 20 15 7 18 — 60
N — 18 13 16 16 — 63
C —Veith 17, Hagedorn 14, Hydorn 12, Dok 7, Erb 4, Joiner 4, Ermier 2
N — Wood 20, Reynolds 13, Easley 9, Bates 8, Clements 8, Sturtz 3, Allen 2