INDIANOLA — At one point Monday night, the Newton boys basketball team held Indianola scoreless for more than 10 minutes of game time.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, it was the final two minutes that really mattered.
Newton slowed the game down to a peach basket pace and led for the majority of the game, but Indianola forced overtime and squeezed out a 32-30 victory to end the Cardinals' season in the first round of substate play.
"They hit a couple shots they hadn't hit all night, and at hlaftime I told the kids they were going to," Newton coach Nick Wilkins said. "But as far as coming in with a game plan, we did exactly what we wanted to do. We wanted to slow the game down, even though I know the fans hated it, and the guys really left it all out there. I don't say it very often, but I think they deserved to win that game."
The Cards made it obvious how they were going to play the game early on, as a 3-pointer by junior Tyler Wood and jumper by sophomore Nick Easley came only after lenghty possessions and plenty of passing. Indianola responded with its height advantage on the offensive boards, scoring six of its first-quarter points with putbacks.
Although Newton eventually slowed the Indians down in that respect, it still led to an 8-8 deadlock after the first.
“As good of a job as we did on the defensive boards, they still had 6-foot-8 kids out there and we have 6-foot-2 kids out there,” Wilkins said. “The offensive boards were probably what changed the game for them. They had a couple in the first and then some in the third and fourth, which was where the game turned.”
Senior Andrew Clements opened the second quarter with a bucket and after a layup by Indianola’s Keegan Render, the Cardinals went into lockdown mode defensively. It took a while to get the offense going, however, as Easley regained the lead with two free throws. The Cards were then helped out by a goaltending call on Indianola, as well as a foul on a 3-pointer attempt from Clements with .02 seconds left on the clock to give Newton a 14-11 lead at halftime.
Lockdown mode continued well into the third, as Indianola didn’t score until a free throw from junior August Sandquist at the 2:20 mark, ending a more than 10-minute scoreless stretch for the Indians.
Most of the credit for that went to Newton’s zone, and the fact that the top men in that zone put so much pressure on the ball. Wilkins was even at the point where he was throwing five subs in at a time just to get his players a blow to keep the defense as strong as it was.
“Tonight, we were flying around all over the place. They threw a pass, and we were there on the catch,” Wilkins said. “You could tell the top three guys were just dead. I was trying to get them subs, especially on the defensive end because that’s where they were working so hard. It was one of those things on the fly, but the five that came in just to play defense did a phenomenal job.”
Indianola started showing signs of life on offense at the end of the third, and Sandquist confirmed that by tying things up at 19-19 to start the third. The game shifted from defense to offense at that point, which proved to be a difficult transition for the Cardinals after keeping a slower pace for the rest of the game.
“It was definitely hard, especially because we still didn’t want to pick it up that much,” Wilkins said. “We focused on great shots, not good shots, tonight and for the most part, we did that. It’s a special team when you have kids step up when you need them like we did tonight. We could’ve easily taken a breath and let them win by 10, but they stepped up.”
The Indians grabbed the lead multiple times down the stretch, but big baskets by Wood and seniors Jesse Bates and Collin Reynolds kept the Cards alive. Indianola then held the ball for the final minute of regulation, but Newton’s defense held it without a shot to send the game to overtime.
Cord Singleton scored the four biggest points of the game for the Indians in overtime, and the Cards couldn’t answer after Easley tied things back up earlier. Newton had the ball with 51.3 seconds to go and Wilkins, who shouldered the blame after the game, called a play to get Wood the ball for the game winner.
However, the play never developed and Indianola escaped with the win.
“We were going to go for the win,” Wilkins said. “I called a play that takes a little bit of time to work up, but I was trying to get Tyler the ball for the win. The only way to do that was for him to run off a couple screens, which if you run fast, still takes 13-14 seconds.”
Despite the tough loss, Wilkins had nothing but praise for his team after the game. The Cards finished with a record of 9-13 after starting the season 3-10 thanks to a brutal nonconference schedule. Newton didn’t buckle though, and the team’s six seniors can end their careers knowing they helped the team do so.
“I don’t do these kids any favors. I took some of our weaker opponents off and added tougher ones, and I’m doing the same next year,” Wilkins said. “We had a chance to win a few more games this year, and really if you look at what we’ve done since Christmas break, you just couldn’t be more happy with these kids. They deserved every win they got this year and, quite honestly, a few more too.”
Indianola 32, Newton 30 (OT)
N — 8 6 5 9 2 — 30
I — 8 3 6 11 4 — 32
N —Easley 11, Wood 8, Clements 4, Reynolds 4, Bates 3
I — Sandquist 20, Render 8, Singleton 6, Arndt 3, Krapfl 2, Marchant 2, Dowson 1