April 17, 2021

Newton boys hold off Knoxville, advance to substate semifinals

Late free throws help Cardinals secure win in substate opener

Newton senior Trent Hamand knows his role on Newton’s boys’ basketball team.

“I am just asked to grab rebounds, play strong defense and try to get some steals,” Hamand said.

Hamand came into Monday’s Class 3A Substate 6 quarterfinal home game against Knoxville averaging less than two points and two rebounds per game, but his huge night on the boards and strong effort on the defensive end of the floor helped the Cardinals advance in the postseason following a 59-55 victory over the Panthers.

“Your average person that just looks at a stat line that doesn’t truly appreciate every spot on the floor doesn’t realize he was huge for us tonight,” Newton boys head coach Jason Carter said. “Even when he wasn’t able to get the rebound, he was getting tips, he was challenging shots at the rim and diving on the ground for loose balls. We need that from him. I was really proud of how he played tonight. He gave us big-time minutes.”

Hamand grabbed a career-best 10 rebounds in the victory and matched a career-high with four points.

And without injured starters Kael Swarts and Zay Arguello for the rest of the season, the Cardinals will need guys like Hamand and Treycen Garton to step into key reserve roles.

“We always preach next man in. You have to be ready to go when you get the opportunity,” Carter said.

The 3A Substate 6 win sends Newton into the semifinals where it will face Little Hawkeye Conference rival Pella at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Pella.

“We just wanted a chance to play in that second game and I’m really proud of the kids for giving themselves that chance,” Carter said.

The last four meetings with Knoxville (13-8) have been decided by an average of three points per game. The Panthers won the first two during that stretch but Newton was 2-0 against Knoxville this season.

On Monday, the Cardinals (9-12) didn’t need overtime to win. Newton led by three at halftime, widened the margin with a big third quarter and then buried 6-of-8 from the free-throw line in the final 1:21 to hold off an attempted comeback by the Panthers.

It was a much different result this time than when the two former conference foes played in Knoxville earlier this season. That one featured 140 points.

“We lost our playoff game last year so it was good to win one this year,” said Hamand, who had four offensive boards. “It’s all about survive and advance.”

In the first meeting, 67 of Knoxville’s 69 points were scored by Kieren Nichols, Spencer Hixson and Luke Keitges. All three Panthers scored 20 or more points.

Newton’s defense was much better in the postseason matchup. Nichols scored a game-high 27 points, but Hixson and Keitges combined for 20.

“Kieren got his, but we limited Keitges and Hixson, who have been big scorers for them this year,” Carter said. “We did a good job defensively tonight overall.”

Newton rallied from an early 10-4 hole with a 10-0 run that included 3-pointers by Adam Mattes and Keith Moko. Another trey by Mattes made it 17-11 and Mattes hit a pair of free throws later to give the Cardinals a 19-16 lead after one quarter.

Mattes led Newton with 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

“We were knocked out in the first round the past two years. So to finally get over that hump and get a win was great,” Mattes said. “It’s nice to be able to keep playing.”

Nichols scored nine of his 27 points in the second frame. He tied the game at 24 and 26, but Logan Schilling hit a triple and Hamand buried a jumper to keep the Cardinals in front at halftime.

The game turned in the third when Newton outscored Knoxville 11-5. The Cardinals kept Nichols out of the scoring column in the period and Mattes and Brody Bauer took over for the hosts.

A runner by Bauer and a putback by Mattes made it 35-28. After Knoxville closed the gap to 35-33, Bauer scored twice inside and made a free throw and Mattes converted a reverse layup to put the Cardinals in front 42-33 after three quarters.

“We were able to keep the game at our tempo for the most part,” Mattes said. “They came back on us when it wasn’t our tempo. We were able to adjust though and started to play our game again in the third.”

Knoxville wouldn’t go away quietly. Nichols hit a 3 and made a layup to close the gap to three two different times and then Keitges scored four straight to get the Panthers within 48-46.

From there, Newton outscored its visitors 10-6 down the stretch to close out the win.

Hamand, who did not play in the first game against Knoxville, scored inside directly off an inbounds pass, Bauer hit another runner and Jake Ingle made four consecutive free throws to push the margin to 56-48.

Schilling also answered a pair of Nichols freebies with two free throws of his own to finish off the win.

Newton was 11-of-20 from the foul line in the game but only committed five turnovers.

“We got out early at their place but they sped us up a little bit and we turned the ball over,” Carter said. “Tonight, we took care of the ball and made shots and that goes a long way.

“We made plays down the stretch. We missed quite a few early on but made free throws down the stretch when it counted.”

Mattes’ night included three made 3-pointers. Bauer had 16 points and three rebounds, Ingle chipped in 11 points, four assists and three steals and Schilling tallied seven points and three assists.

Garton grabbed four of his five boards at the offensive end and Moko hit a 3-pointer in the first quarter for his only points.

“Everyone is gelling together, and I feel like we are coming together at the right time,” Mattes said. “Trent had some huge rebounds. We just played good team basketball tonight.”

Nichols was 10-of-10 from the foul line in the game and scored 10 of his 27 points in the fourth. Hixson put in 11 points, while Keitges scored nine. The Panthers were 18-of-20 from the foul line.

Class 3A No. 5 Pella (20-2) swept Newton this season, but the Cardinals lost by five on the road on Jan. 29.

“We have to take care of the ball and we have to rebound,” Carter said. “We can’t give them extra possessions. If we do that, they are really hard to beat. We can’t give them easy ones. We can’t give them lay ins or wide open 3s. That’s easy to say. It’s tough to do.”