NEWTON — Give Chandler Sturtz, Tyler Wood, Connor Gholson or a couple other Newton players an open look from behind the three-point arc, pay the price.
Grinnell’s Tigers found that out the hard way Friday night. The Cardinals caught fire from the outside, shooting 78.5 percent (11-of-14) from long range.
Sturtz drained 6-of-6 3-pointers, three of which came in the fourth quarter, to guide the Cardinals to a 60-43 win over the visiting Tigers. Sturtz had a game-high 24 points. Wood nailed three 3-pointers on his way to 16 points.
“We came into tonight’s game to prove we were a better team than what we showed Thursday at Dallas Center-Grimes,” Wood said after the contest. “We were embarrassed by our play. We wanted to prove we are a top team in the conference and no one should take us for granted.”
The Cardinals handed Grinnell its second loss in Little Hawkeye Conference play. Newton improved to 7-5 in conference action and 8-9 overall. Grinnell is 9-2 in the conference and 11-6 overall.
“Our guys came ready to play tonight,” Newton head coach Nick Wilkins said. “I’m not offering any excuses for Thursday night’s loss at DCG, which played well, and we didn’t. The guys came back and gave us the effort we needed at both ends of the court tonight.”
Nick Easley opened the game with a basket for Newton. Grinnell’s Clayton Scurr responded with a 3-pointer. It was the only time the Tigers held a lead, 3-2, with 6:24 left in the first quarter.
Wood put the Cards back in front on a 3-pointer then hit two free throws. Joe Schmidt’s three closed the gap to one, 7-6, but Sturtz sank two charities to keep the Cardinals leading.
Sturtz flew down the court with the basketball then passed it out to Wood for a 3-pointer.
“Coach stressed team play tonight that was a key for us,” Wood said. ‘We weren’t selfish with the basketball. We moved the ball well, we used dribble penetration and kicked it out. Plus, we hit a lot of open shots tonight.”
Overall, the Cardinals shot 49 percent, 19-of-39, from the field. They were pretty good at the free-throw line also, 11-of-14.
Gholson nailed a 3-pointer and Joseph Banfield added a bucket to push the Newton lead to 17-8. A basket by Grinnell’s Eli Dunne at the buzzer made it a seven-point game.
Sturtz and Dunne traded 3-pointers then Sturtz went one better. The Cardinal guard netted a 3-pointer and was fouled. Sturtz completed the four-point play at the free-throw line. Banfield got loose for a basket inside and the Cardinals’ lead ballooned to 26-15 at the 5:46 mark of the second quarter.
The Tigers trimmed it down to four, 26-22. Newton had a 6-1 run into halftime to lead 32-23.
“The guys executed our game plan well. Keys to this win were rebounding and guarding their players individually different based on their skill set. We were not going to let their best players on the inside hurt us,” Wilkins said.
“And late in the game, we did slow the pace and take the air out of the ball. We were looking for wide-open layups and open 3-pointers from our good shooters. We are one of the best shooting teams in the conference. You can’t leave our guys open on the perimeter or we’ll knock down the threes.”
Easley drove and hit a couple shots early in the third quarter for Newton. Grinnell pushed back into the game, trailing 36-31, midway through the period and that’s when the Cardinals “took the air out of the ball.”
Newton went to a passing game, moving the ball inside and outside. Sturtz and Jwan Roush delivered back-to-back 3-pointers and Daquan Allen hit a buzzer-beater to give the Cardinals a 44-31 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Sturtz took over, scoring 11 of the Cardinals 16 points in the final eight minutes. Wood had a three-point play at the four-minute mark for a 55-33 lead.
Sturtz dished out four assists while Devin Shores and Nick Easley each had three assists. Wood grabbed five rebounds and Shores had four rebounds. Banfield blocked two shots.
Dunne was the only Tiger to reach double figures in scoring with 14 points. Sam Allen, a freshman who hit four threes for Grinnell in the first meeting in January, had one three and ended with five points.
The Cardinals are at Oskaloosa Tuesday and host Pella Friday.
Newton — Sturtz 1/6-4-1-24, Shores 0-0-1-0, Wood 1/3-5-0-16, Roush 0/1-0-1-3, Allen 1-0-4-2, Easley 3-2-3-8, Travis 0-0-1-0, Williams 0-0-1-0, Gholson 0/1-0-0-3, Banfield 2-0-2-4. TOTALS: 8/11-11-14-60.
Grinnell — Mertens 0-0-2-0, Doty 0-0-3-0, Scurr 1/1-3-0-8, Schmidt 1/1-3-4-8, Allen 1/1-0-4-5, Graham 0-0-3-0, Vosburg 2-0-0-4, Dunne 5/1-1-1-14, Wray 0-0-2-0, Harris 1-0-0-2, Lahn 1-0-0-2. TOTALS: 12/4-7-17-43.