DES MOINES — Although it's normally just a phrase, the Newton girls basketball team literally watched its season tick away Wednesday night.
After a knock-down, drag-out battle with Des Moines Hoover for the game's first 31 minutes, the Huskies decided to hold the ball for a final shot.
And despite being shut down for most of the second half, Hoover's 6-foot-2 senior Nyakat Diew scored the game-winner with 3.4 seconds left on the clock, ending Newton's upset bid and its season.
"In the grand scheme, I told the girls it has to end no matter where you are," Newton coach Brandon Sharp said. "We all absolutely wanted this one for several different reasons, but the effort with this group is always there. I'm extremely proud of each and every one of them for what they've contributed to this program."
The two teams traded blows early in the first, but Newton senior Kristin Samson hit a 3-pointer to get the Cardinals started. Diew began to get into a rhythm with multiple baskets in a row, but Newton senior Kaylie Rhoads responded with a few of her own before a late basket from Cardinal sophomore Sarah Kalkoff put the score at 11-9.
"At one time I looked up and we were down, and I just wanted to see if we were going to fight back or cave in. The personality of our team kicked in and we fought back," Sharp said. "We stayed patient and we understand there will be ups and downs in this game."
The Cardinals became a little careless with the ball at the beginning of the second, but their defense on the other end prevented Hoover from extending the lead too much. Senior Katelyn Camp then gave Newton a big boost with a 3-pointer before Rhoads converted a Husky travel to a jumper for the lead.
Camp hit another three just a few possessions later before Diew scored the half's final bucket. Despite a number of Cardinal shots glancing just off the rim down the stretch, Newton only trailed 22-19 at the break.
"We watched film on Hoover all week, and we saw (Diew) was pretty lazy on defense if she had to come away from the basket," Sharp said of Camp's threes. "So, we encouraged her to take a couple shots to see if they would go in, and to her credit, she knocked them down. That was nice to see."
Samson opened the second half with a three-point play to tie the game up, and Camp scored on the next possession to give Newton its first lead since early in the first quarter. The Cards also shifted to a 2-3 zone and slapped a double team on Diew. The result was Hoover staying off the scoreboard until a pair of free throws at the 4:33 mark.
Four successful free throws by senior Anna Latcham and sophomore Michaela Jacobsen gave Newton a 28-25 lead going into the fourth quarter. The 2-3 zone was beyond effective in the frame, as Newton held Hoover to just three points.
The Huskies eventually woke up at the beginning of the fourth with a 5-0 run to reclaim the lead, but two free throws from Kalkhoff set the back-and-forth tone that would remain for the rest of the game. Rhoads tied things up with a pair of free throws at 32-32 and Camp scored Newton's final bucket, but it came down to Hoover burning the clock for Diew's game winner.
"This was the most we've played a 2-3 all season, and it killed me to do it, but I felt like it gave us the best chance," Sharp said. "(Diew) just made a play. We had good defense with two girls on her, but she just went straight up and made a play. It's tough, but there's nothing else you can do when that happens."
Sharp called multiple timeouts to give the Cards the best possible look at a desperation shot, but Hoover junior Artoria Jung prevented one from even happening when she stole the inbounds pass and clinched the game.
The loss was an unfortunately fitting one for the Cards, who dealt with multiple defeats like it over the past two years. It was the final game for seven Newton seniors who have played a large role in helping rebuild the program, but Sharp expects their work to continue through their underclassmen teammates in the seasons to come.
"The seniors have set the bar extremely high for our underclassmen whether it's school, basketball, life community service or anything else," an emotional Sharp said. "It's going to have to be a collective effort to fill those seven pairs of shoes because they contributed more than they could realize to the program. We'll have a hard time replacing them, but I know the underclassmen are eager and willing to."
Des Moines Hoover 36, Newton 34
N — 9 10 9 6 — 34
H — 11 11 3 11 — 36
N — Camp 12, Rhoads 8, Samson 6, Kalkhoff 4, Jacobsen 2, Latcham 2
H — Diew 11, Clark 10, Larson 7, Robinson 6, Jung 2