NEWTON — Defensive execution is just as important as offensive execution on the basketball court.
Newton’s Cardinals had a game plan on defense going into Tuesday night’s home Little Hawkeye Conference contest against the Class 3A fourth-ranked Dallas Center-Grimes Mustangs. They were going to double up on the Mustangs’ 6-8 post player Austin Rix each time he touched so he’d have to pass the ball.
“It was a good game plan. We didn’t execute it. When you don’t execute against a really good team, you’re going to struggle,” said Nick Wilkins, Cardinal head coach, following a 76-58 loss to the Mustangs.
Rix ended up with 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Mustangs. Wilkins pointed even to the fact that Nick Drucker, “who never posts up,” went inside because of the mis-matches against the Cardinals and scored. Drucker finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“We’re alright offensively. Our guys played hard. Our problem is that we don’t work as hard defensively as we do offensively,” Wilkins said. “We struggle to get stops. We can score but we don’t get enough stops on the defensive end.”
An example of that came in the second quarter. The Cardinals fell behind 10-2 in the first period and worked back to trail 20-15 on a 3-pointer from Connor Gholson by the end of the opening quarter.
Rix sank two free throws for DCG to begin the second period. Chandler Sturtz, who led Newton with 20 points, triggered in a 3-pointer. The Cardinals were down 22-18 at the 5:54 mark of the stanza.
But the Cardinal defense allowed Reese Iversen to hit a 3-pointer then Drucker connected on a three that almost turned into a four-point play but he missed the free throw. The deficit was 10 again and the Cardinals never got any closer.
The Mustangs outscored the Cardinals 22-10 in the second period to forge a 42-25 halftime lead. A trey by Iversen and a bucket by Rix pushed it further in the opening minute and a half of the third quarter.
Jake Bennett came off the bench and hit a 3-pointer for Newton to begin a back-and-forth game the rest of the second half. The Mustangs led 61-40 when Newton’s Nick Glotfelty hit a 3-pointer to end the scoring in the third quarter. Each team tossed in 15 points in the final eight minutes.
“Every game is going to present match-up problems for teams. We have to learn how to take advantage of those better or counter them defensively,” Wilkins said. “We didn’t attack the rim in the first half. When we started attacking the rim in the second half, we played right with them.
“We’ve tried several defenses this season and have not found one that really works for us. It’s a learning process on defense for us and we’ll keep working on it.”
Tyler Wood added 12 points for the Cardinals. Newton was 4-of-11 from the free-throw line.
Dallas Center-Grimes (8-1) got 12 points from Iversen. The Mustangs cashed in on 10-of-20 attempts from the charity stripe.
Newton is 3-6 overall and 2-2 in Little Hawkeye Conference play. The Cardinals travel to Grinnell in conference action Friday.
Newton — Sturtz 6/2-2-2-20, Shores 0-0-1-0, Wood 4/1-1-4-12, Bennett 1/1-0-4-5, Allen 1-0-4-2, Easley 1-0-2-2, Banfield 2-1-2-5, Gholson 0/3-0-0-9, Glotfelty 0/1-0-0-3. TOTALS: 15/8-4-19-58.
Dallas Center-Grimes — Borchers 1-0-2-2, Kramer 3-0-3-6, Drucker 4/2-2-3-13, Chambers 3-0-0-6, Washington 1-0-1-2, Heritage 3-0-0-6, Iversen 1/2-4-4-12, Rix 9-4-1-22, Balzer 2-0-1-4. TOTALS: 27/4-10-15-76.