NEWTON — It was a make-or-break situation for Newton’s Cardinals. They saw a five-point lead evaporate on one possession. Norwalk’s Warriors hit a 3-pointer and got two free throws to tie the game at the 3:05 mark of the fourth quarter.
“When that happened, it could have been the balloon popping for us. It could have destroyed us, but we’ve got very resilient girls. They packed it up and persevered through it,” Cardinal head coach Brandon Sharp said after the Cardinals survived with a 43-40 win Friday night.
Locked in a 35-35 game, the Cardinals and Warriors did not score for almost a minute. Alex Hutchinson drew a foul on Norwalk’s 5-fot-10 post player Tori VanVelzen with 2:11 on the clock. VanVelzen fouled out of the game on the play.
Hutchinson sank both free throws to put Newton in front to stay. Newton’s defense forced a turnover and Lizzie Stock stepped to the free-throw line, downing both tosses for the Cardinals.
Norwalk’s Kierstin Vaske scored which was counted with a basket by Newton’s Shelby Gray. Shelby Nelson hit her third 3-pointer of the night for the Warriors with 51.1 seconds on the game clock. Newton led 41-40.
Stock sank one of two free throws to put the Cardinals in front by two points with 31 seconds left in home contest. The Warriors called a timeout with 25.1 seconds remaining.
Ten seconds later, Sarah Kalkhoff reached in and knocked the basketball away from Norwalk’s Sidney Logan. Kalkhoff collected the basketball and passed it to Sydney Jenkins.
Jenkins made one of two charity tosses then put the pressure on Nelson, who attempted a 3-pointer at the other end for Norwalk. Logan was fouled with less than a second left and she missed both free throw attempts.
“We pride ourselves on our team defense,” Kalkhoff said after the game. “At the timeout (with 25 seconds left), coach just told us to go out and play our defense. Defense is what I do. My offense is not always there, but I try hard to play the best I can defensively.”
Stock, who was 7-of-9, from the free-throw line led the Cardinals with 13 points. Hannah Rhoads hit two 3-pointers on the way to eight points. Gray and Kalkhoff each had six rebounds.
The win halted a two-game losing skid by the Cardinals. They are 4-11 on the season and improved to 3-5 in Little Hawkeye Conference play.
“We’re tied in conference with them so to beat them, helps us have a good chance to move up in the conference,” Kalkhoff said. “This was a big game. It was a game we decided we wanted after they beat us in a close game there earlier in the season. We love to play and win in front of our fans and ring the bell.”
The Cardinals rang the victory bell following the game. They host Pella Christian Tuesday in conference action.
When Michaela Jacobsen scored at the 3:32 mark of the first quarter, it tied the game up at 4-4. Hannah Rhoads triggered in a 3-pointer followed by a basket by Stock to push the Cardinals to the lead, 9-4.
Newton never trailed in the game again. The Cardinals were up 12-8 after one quarter of play Stock hit both ends of a one-and-one then Gray had a baby hook shot for two to open the second period.
The Cardinals opened a 17-8 lead which increased to 23-11 at the 3-minute mark. Rhoads hit another trey and Stock scored in transition. Newton led Norwalk 27-14 at halftime.
“The first half was great. We played extremely well. That’s what we’re capable of, but its been rare for us. We haven’t been able to put a full game of that together,” Sharp said. “In conference play, we’ve been starting games slow, putting ourselves in a hole then finish a game strong.
“Tonight, we started strong then in the third quarter, facing that 1-3-1 (defense) and got up tight about it. We spent two days working on it.”
Newton’s offense came to a stand still in the third quarter. Jenkins hit two free throws with 4:42 left and that was it. The Cardinals stayed on top, leading 29-26, going into the fourth quarter.
Free throw shooting came into play in the final eight minutes. Newton went 10-of-16 in that span to keep the pace. The Cardinals got their first field goal of the second half with 3:26 left in the game. Jacobsen crashed through the lane for a bucket to give Newton a 35-30 lead.
Nelson downed a 3-pointer for Norwalk. On the play, Jacobsen was called for a foul which put VanVelzen at the free-throw line. VanVelzen hit both ends of a one-and-one to tie the game.
“This shows how our team has matured mentally in the past couple of days. The five-point play and how our girls responded to it and finished the game bears that out,” Sharp said.
Jacobsen had five rebounds. Kalkhoff made two steals while Rhoads and Jacobsen each handed out three assists.
The Cardinals shot 28 percent, 11-of-39, from the field. They sank 19-of-28 free throw attempts in the game.
VanVelzen and Nelson led the Warriors with 12 points each. Norwalk hit 11-of-23 free throws.
In the junior varsity game, Norwalk won on a late basket, 38-36. Newton was led by Jaci Twaddle with 11 points and Jessica Reynolds with 10 points.
Norwalk — Vaske 1-0-3-2, Hoover 0-0-1-0, Owens 2-0-2-4, Logan 2-3-3-7, Poppens 1-0-5-2, VanVelzen 3-6-5-12, Hegland 0-0-5-0, Lucas 0-1-0-1, Nelson 1/3-1-2-12. TOTALS: 10/3-11-26-40.
Newton — Jenkins 4-5-2-7, Stock 3-7-2-13, Hutchinson 0-3-4-3, Rhoads 0/2-2-4-8, Gray 2-0-2-4, Jacobsen 2-1-4-5, Reynolds 1-0-0-2-, Kalkhoff 0-1-2-1. TOTALS: 9/2-19-20-43.