Friday night’s Little Hawkeye Conference girls basketball game between Newton and Pella Christian was not decided until the fourth quarter.
And with the game on the line, the Cardinals relied on their most experienced player and she came through in the clutch.
Rori Nehring gave the home team some separation with three straight buckets to start the final frame and scored eight of her team-high 11 points in the fourth during the Cardinals’ 30-24 victory over the Eagles.
Newton used a 13-0 run that started in the third and finished in the fourth to grab momentum against Pella Christian. The win snapped a five-game losing skid.
“A win is a win no matter what,” Newton head girls basketball coach Eric Vander Velden said. “We didn’t make any free throws in the fourth quarter, but we got some crucial buckets and Audrey (Rausch) hit a 3-pointer late in the third that was big, too.
“We have the gauntlet next week so winning tonight was important. I think we will continue to get better.”
Nehring, who has 59 career starts, finished with 11 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks to lead the Cardinals. She now has a school-record 100 career blocks.
“It has been extremely tough lately, but I think this win is going to boost everyone’s confidence,” Nehring said.
Newton (2-7 overall, 1-4 in conference play) trailed 6-2 early but led 9-6 after the first quarter. Nehring’s only other points in the game came on a three-point play that made it 6-5. Jaz Cooper hit a 3-pointer and Emma Rogers made 1-of-2 from the free-throw line to put the Cardinals in front.
The only points that did not come from the foul line in the second came from Kealey Manning inside the lane. That made it 14-11 and her free throw just before halftime put Newton on top 15-13 at the break.
Both teams were in the bonus early in the quarter and Newton’s starting point guard, Kya Butler, was plagued by fouls in the first half.
Pella Christian (2-8, 0-5) got back in front in the third behind Joslyn Terpstra. She made three free throws in the second quarter and added a layup and two more free throws in the third.
The Terpstra freebies gave the Eagles a 20-15 lead midway through the third. But Newton’s 13-0 run was too much for the Eagles to overcome.
Rausch’s only 3-pointer of the night cut Pella Christian’s lead to 20-19, Emily Wermager tied the game with a free throw and Rausch’s steal at midcourt and layup at the offensive end as time expired pushed the Cardinals in front for good at 22-20.
“Audrey probably played the best defensive game of her career,” Vander Velden said.
Nehring went to work in the fourth after she got a vibe from Vander Velden in the huddle in between quarters. She scored the first two buckets inside the lane and then stepped out and hit a jumper near the free throw line.
Another short jumper by Nehring finished off the Cardinals’ run and put Newton in front 30-22. She also had a steal with 1:21 to play and grabbed a key rebound with 23 seconds on the clock.
“I got the vibe from Coach Vandy with a side eye that someone needed to step up and score some points so I took initiative and stepped up and scored the points for my team,” Nehring said. “Once I made the first few shots, the confidence just kept growing.”
It was another tough shooting night for the Cardinals and Newton committed 24 turnovers.
The home team shot 25.6 percent from the floor, made 2-of-8 from 3-point range and hit just 8-of-23 from the line. The Cardinals were 0-of-6 from the charity stripe in the final period but finished with 13 steals and five blocks on defense in the game.
“We knew they were going to run a zone,” Vander Velden said. “We have been working on our zone offense this week and we were able to make enough shots to win.
“We had some crucial turnovers and (Pella Christian) had way too many offensive rebounds in the first half. We boxed out better in the second half.”
Rausch finished with five points, three rebounds, three assists and four steals and Manning registered four points and six rebounds off the bench.
Rogers tallied four points and three boards, Sophia Reynolds added five rebounds, two assists and three steals and Jaz Cooper chipped in three points and four rebounds. Wermager pulled down a pair of rebounds, too.
Notes: The 30 points scored was the lowest point total in a win for Newton since the Cardinals defeated Oskaloosa 28-24 on Jan. 30, 2018. … Newton recognized its final 6-on-6 girls basketball team during halftime of the boys’ game. The 1990-91 Cardinals squad reached the state tournament that season. The eight players in attendance Friday were Dana Kennedy, Wendy Davies-Popelka, Jennifer Mardock Morgan, Amy Bagnall VanBlair, Cassidy Hubbard McKinney, Kim Smith Walker, Kim Pickett Kenninger and Jessica George VanSickel.