Sometimes a team just needs to look at a win as a win, and that's exactly what happened to the Newton boys basketball team Thursday night.
The Cardinals started slow and stayed that way through the third quarter, but eventually woke up in the fourth to earn a 50-36 victory and prevent Knoxville from spoiling Senior Night.
"In all reality, we played the fourth quarter like we should've played all game," Newton coach Nick Wilkins said. "If we would've played like that all game, we would've had a similar game to what it was down there. We took Knoxville for granted, so you have to give them credit."
Newton (8-10, 4-7 Little Hawkeye Conference) got a bucket from senior Collin Reynolds and a 3-pointer from junior Chandler Sturtz early in the first, but were stuck in neutral for a while after that. A putback by junior Daquan Allen and late basket by senior Jacob Hill ended the spell, but Newton still trailed 13-9 at the end of the first.
Nothing really changed in the second, as the Cardinals continued to surrender offensive rebounds and miss shots on the other end. Almost all of their points were earned in the paint by Allen, Reynolds and senior Jesse Bates, but a few outside shots from Knoxville put the Panthers up 20-17 going into the half.
"We gave up 10 offensive rebounds in the first half, so that was a big deal, but we just weren't running our offense," Wilkins said. "We would make one pass and then someone would put their head down and go to the rim, and that's not what we do. We move the ball, penetrate and dish, and we weren't doing that in the first half."
Newton sophomore Tyler Wood opened the second half with a three to tie things up, but things would only get worse after that. After a few more minutes of scoreless play, Wilkins pulled all five Cardinals off the floor and replaced them with bench players. Knoxville took advantage of the new lineup and went up 27-20, but when the Newton regulars returned, they brought a whole new ballgame with them.
In the final 1:30 of the quarter, the Cards ripped off a 7-0 run spurred by multiple steals from senior Andrew Clements that led to easy layups on the other end. Just like that, the score was tied up at 27.
"I think they would've done that on their own, but I was just trying to give them a head start on doing it," Wilkins said dryly. "But it's fine line. I would've looked like an idiot if we went down seven and didn't come back. We just needed that spark, and we eventually got it."
That spark stayed strong in the fourth quarter, which the Cards dominated. A three by Clements got the home crowd on its feet and some big plays by senior Jacob Hill helped extend Newton's lead. Following a Knoxville technical and ensuing free throws by Wood, Newton simply put the game in cruise control.
Bates, Clements, Hill, Reynolds and fellow seniors Michael Miller and Austin Hopwood were honored in a Senior Night ceremony before the game. Wilkins highlighted the group's maturity, especially when dealing with the frequent lineup changes it dealt with earlier in the season. The Cards have now won four out of their last five games, and the team's unity might be a big reason for that.
"At the beginning of the year some of them were starting, then they were on the bench and then some were starting again. But the thing about this senior class is that they were always ready to play," Wilkins said. "When I asked someone to come off the bench, they just did their job and didn't hang their head. I've been around plenty of seniors that would would just quit or get a bad attitude because of that, but they didn't. That says a lot about the kind of kids they are and what kind of men they'll be."
Newton will wrap up conference play in Pella tonight before making road trips to Winterset and Perry next week.
Newton 50, Knoxville 36
K — 13 7 7 9 — 36
N — 9 8 10 13 — 50
K — Douglass 11, Moats 6, Smith 6, Joe Stearns 4, Jake Stearns 3, Davis 2, Higginbotham 2, Wallace 2
N — Wood 12, Reynolds 9, Bates 7, Hill 6, Sturtz 5, Allen 4, Clements 4, Shores 2, Hopwood 1