WINTERSET — Used extensively in sled racing, huskies are largely known for their endurance.
Apparently that extends to the basketball court as well.
Despite the Newton boys basketball team’s multiple attempts to put Winterset away Monday night, the Huskie just kept coming back.
After a slow, foul-filled first half gave way to a quick, high-scoring second, the Cardinals lost track of Winterset before falling to a bizarre ending to a 67-64 game.
“We were worried when we came in because we knew they played hard the whole time,” Newton coach Nick Wilkins said. “This was kind of a letdown game for us because we had a big win Friday and we won all three last week, but it was a good game. We had our chance at the end, but it just didn’t work out.”
The Cards (9-11, 5-7 Little Hawkeye Conference) got an early scoring boost from senior Andrew Clements and sophomore Tyler Wood in the first quarter, but the real story was the foul situation. Winterset was in the bonus with 48.8 seconds left in the first quarter, forcing some unwanted adjustments on the Newton defense.
“Honestly, a lot of it was our fault. Sometimes the ref just doesn’t see it the way we do, but tonight it was our fault,” Wilkins said. “We were out of position and they would cut right in front of us and we would either let them score two or foul. But the kids battled, and at the beginning of the year if we played like that, we would lose by 25.”
Trailing 16-13 in the second, the Cards had their biggest offensive slump over the next few minutes. The Huskies slowly built their lead to as many as six points before senior Collin Reynolds, sophomore Nick Easley and senior Jacob Hill scored on consecutive possessions to knot the score back up.
Winterset got two free throws in the closing minute to regain a 25-23 lead at halftime, but considering what could’ve happened with the foul situation, Newton was in a pretty good position at halftime.
The Cards kept their momentum up in the third as Reynolds opened it up with a three-point play. Newton then got baskets from sophomore Nick Easley and senior Michael Miller, but the Huskies foreshadowed the end of the game by answering each bucket. Wood chipped in six points down the stretch, but a late 3-pointer by Winterset’s Lucas Nolan left the Cards with a 46-40 lead.
“We executed our sets a lot better and I think we had advantages at some positions, which we started taking advantage of,” Wilkins said. “One great thing about Nick Easley is if people try to guard him close, they can’t. It’s the same with our inside game, so we took advantage of that.”
Easley proved his coach right early in the fourth by scoring eight quick points, but the Huskies had answers in the form of 3-pointers every time the Cards started building momentum. After scratching their way back, Nolan brought the Huskies to within one point on a three with around two minutes left in the game.
The Cards got a huge bucket from Reynolds off an inbound play to regain the lead quickly after they had lost it, but Winterset’s Noah Kaldenburg drained a three on the other end to give the Huskies a two-point lead with less than a minute to go.
“We simply just lost our guy a few times, and the second half of the fourth quarter was just like that,” Wilkins said. “We lost them in transition and we let them go baseline on us, which is our number one rule on defense. We took their leading scorer out of the game, but their second and third-leading scorers dominated us.”
After a Newton travel on its ensuing possession and a Winterset free throw, Easley scored to pull the Cards back to within one. However, Nolan responded on the other end with an and-one, but was called for a technical directly after the play. The Cards then converted one of the two ensuing free throws and had possession with just 6.7 seconds left trailing 67-64.
Junior Chandler Sturtz fielded the inbounds pass and fought through defenders for a solid look at the hoop under pressure, but the ball took a Winterset bounce off the rim and the final second ticked off the clock.
“It was crazy and it was nice to have that opportunity, but when we only hit one out of two at the line, it limited us,” Wilkins said. “With the time we had left and me without a timeout, it was hard to come up with something. But honestly, Chandler is one of our better shooters. He got a good look and we honestly thought it was in. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t go the way you want it to.”
Neither Wilkins nor the Cards seemed too bummed after the game considering the reason for late-season nonconference games is to be tested like they were Monday night. Newton will get one final tuneup before postseason play begins when it travels to Perry Thursday night.
Winterset 67, Newton 64
N — 13 12 21 18 — 64
W — 16 7 17 27 — 67
N — Wood 20, Easley 16, Reynolds 12, Allen 4, Clements 4. Bates 2, Hill 2, Miller 2, Sturtz 2
W — Nolan 20, Briney 19, Caudle 13, Kaldenberg 8, Gilliliand 4, Scheetz 2, Jackson 1