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Newman rallies, stays atop Heartland Conference standings

  • Eagle correspondent
  • Published Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, at 10:15 p.m.

St. Mary’s (Texas) was bigger, stronger and better than the Newman men for 90 percent of Saturday’s game at Fugate Gymnasium. They made more than half their shots, held the Jets to around 30 percent shooting and nearly doubled them in rebounds.

That meant nothing to Newman, which conjured up its second improbable comeback of the season to erase a 10-point deficit in the final four minutes and defeat St. Mary’s 63-60. The victory keeps No. 19 Newman (13-1) atop the Heartland Conference at 4-0.

“Championship teams play through adversity and tonight we had a lot of it,” Newman coach Mark Potter said. “The only time a team can do what we did tonight is when the team, all the way to the coaching staff to the last guy on the bench, believes.”

Newman never panicked because it had pulled a similar escape on Nov. 27, when it found itself in a 14-point hole in the second half against Emporia State. The Jets ended that game on a 17-6 run to force overtime in an eventual win.

It was nearly a carbon copy on Saturday, as Newman scored on its final eight possessions, including an 11-of-12 performance at the free-throw line.

“We were taught to never give up here,” said senior Shamar Acuay, who scored 17 of his team-high 20 points in the second half. “Once you believe, you can find a way to get there.”

Newman was flawless down the stretch, and St. Mary’s was not. The Rattlers committed three turnovers in crunch time and finished with 25 for the game, providing the answer to how a team can lose when it dominates shooting (50.0 percent to Newman’s 32.8 percent) and rebounding (46-27) stats.

“I’m still trying to figure out how we lost that one,” St. Mary’s coach Jim Zeleznak said. “We just turned it over way too many times and put them on the line. They were scoring when the clocked was stopped and that killed us.”

Acuay made eight free throws down the stretch, and two more free throws by Marquis Cuyler pushed the lead to 62-59 with six seconds left. Newman fouled before a game-tying three-pointer could be attempted, forcing St. Mary’s to purposely miss the second free throw.

The proposition was risky for Newman, as St. Mary’s 6-foot-9 Kevin Kotzur (23 points, 16 rebounds) was a threat for a tip-in. But Potter employs an unusual strategy on boxing out on free throws, as he instructs both players on either side of the lane to pinch down and completely ignore the free-throw shooter.

It paid off as St. Mary’s missed and Newman’s Darrell Traylor emerged with the rebound.

“There’s maybe one percent of teams in America that do it that way,” Potter said. “But it came down to a will. A will not to lose. A will that was never going to give in.”

Potter admits he probably overuses the word “belief” around his team. He preaches it in every practice, screams it during every timeout and makes sure it’s the first word his players hear.

On nights like Saturday, the players understand why.

“I do use that word a lot,” Potter said. “I just keep clapping and tell them to say in there, to keep hustling and just do what you do. That’s what we did tonight and now it’s going to be pretty hard not to believe.”

ST. MARY’S (10-3): Alexander 2-4 0-0 4, Kotzur 11-15 1-4 23, Bower 2-4 5-7 10, Sundufu 2-4 0-0 6, Taylor 5-14 0-1 11, Simmons 0-2 0-0 0, Wilson 1-2 0-0 2, Matthews 0-1 0-0 0, Hubenak 2-4 0-2 4, Monroe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-50 6-14 60.

NEWMAN (13-1): Cuyler 4-9 2-2 12, Mesh 0-3 0-0 0, Beck 1-4 0-0 3, Wesley 0-4 1-2 1, Traylor 3-10 7-9 14, Acuay 5-10 8-8 20, Drayton 1-6 0-0 3, Pleasant 1-4 0-1 2, McCarthy 2-3 0-0 4, Emerliahu 2-5 0-0 4. Totals 19-58 18-22 63.

Halftime—St. Mary’s 30, Newman 23. 3 pt. shooting—St. Mary’s 4-10 (Sundufu 2-2, Bower 1-2, Taylor 1-5, Simmons 0-1), Newman 7-20 (Acuay 2-2, Cuyler 2-3, Drayton 1-3, Beck 1-4, Traylor 1-5, Mesh 0-1, Wesley 0-1, McCarthy 0-1). Rebounds—St. Mary’s 46 (Kotzur 16), Newman 27 (Traylor 7). Assists—St. Mary’s 14 (Bower 5), Newman 10 (Wesley 5). Fouls—St. Mary’s 24, Newman 15. A—340.

St. Mary’s women 68, Newman 58, OT — The Jets (5-10, 0-3) gave conference-leading St. Mary’s a run by getting the game to overtime, but St. Mary’s made 3 of 6 shots and 13 of 15 free throws in the extra period.

Alexandra Ciabattoni had 14 points and nine rebounds for Newman, while Cheniqwa Banks had 13 points and eight rebounds.

ST. MARY’S (12-3): Jacobs 5-18 5-5 16, Woods 4-15 6-6 15, Boyd 2-5 4-8 9, Kioa 1-11 1-2 3, Bell 1-3 0-2 2, Pullins 2-13 8-15 12, Lee 3-7 5-7 11, Elias 0-4 0-1 0. Totals 18-76 29-46 68.

NEWMAN (5-10): Ciabattoni 5-13 3-5 14, John 3-5 3-4 9, Flannagan 2-9 0-0 4, Higgs 1-4 1-2 3, Ramelb 0-2 0-0 0, Banks 5-12 0-0 13, Coleman 2-6 6-6 11, Rosales 2-8 0-0 4, Sonka 0-1 0-0 0, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Goode 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-60 13-17 58.

Halftime--Newman 28-17. End of regulation--Tied 49-49. 3-point shooting--St. Mary’s 3-14 (Boyd 1-2, Woods 1-3, Jacobs 1-3, Pullins 0-1, Kioa 0-2, Elias 0-3), Newman 5-19 (Banks 3-7, Ciabattoni 1-2, Coleman 1-3, Ramelb 0-1, Sonka 0-1, Flannagan 0-5). Rebounds--St. Mary’s 62 (Pullins 19), Newman 47 (Ciabattoni 9). Assists--St. Mary’s 8 (Boyd 3), Newman 11 (John 4). Total fouls--St. Mary’s 16, Newman.30. Fouled out--Ramelb, Rosales, Flannagan.

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