The game that had put a little extra pep in Abby Schmidt’s step had taken a turn for the worse on Tuesday.
Schmidt, Newton’s 6-foot-3 senior post player, struggled through most of the third quarter against Derby’s 6-6 sophomore Kennedy Brown. Brown scored eight points – a significant number in this defensive duel – to help slice Newton’s lead to five points.
As Schmidt went to the bench, Newton coach Randy Jordan waited with a message.
“He said, ‘You’re better than that,’ ” Schmidt said. “ ‘You’re a senior. You can do it.’
“And I can.”
Schmidt, who had snapped Newton’s 71/2-minute scoreless drought with a basket near the end of the third quarter, spun past Brown for another basket early in the fourth. At the other end of the court, she blocked Brown’s three-point attempt, which led to a fastbreak basket for DesiRay Kernal.
Newton was suddenly back in control, and on its way to a 41-32 victory that pushed its record to 9-0.
“I kind of let Kennedy start getting in my head a little bit,” said Schmidt, who finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. “I came out really focused, but in the third quarter, I didn’t do as good of a job.”
Newton, No. 1 in the Class 5A coaches association rankings, was in a total funk early in the second half. The Railers finished committed nine of their 25 turnovers in the third quarter and didn’t help themselves with 8-of-20 free-throw shooting.
“I can’t fault our effort,” Jordan said. “I think we were pretty amped and we made some decisions that probably weren’t the best, but both teams fought hard.
“What I was really proud of is Derby made a run and we (overcame) it. We came back in the fourth quarter and I thought played really well.”
Kernal scored 12 points to lead Newton, which improved to 5-0 in Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail Division I. Brown led Derby (3-3, 3-2) with 12 points, but came up empty in the final quarter as the Railers pushed their lead to as many as 13 points.
Newton’s third quarter couldn’t overshadow a strong start. The Railers held Derby scoreless for the final 41/2 minutes of the first quarter en route to a 22-10 halftime lead.
“I’m not so sure why we were so hesitant,” Derby coach Jodie Karsak said. “The word, I think, was scared. Offensively, I thought we played right into what they wanted us to do.”
After scoring 66 and 60 points in its last two games, Derby was held to a season-low 32 – right at Newton’s defensive average.
“We talked about weathering the storm and after that third quarter, we knew we got through it and were going to be OK,” Schmidt said.
DERBY: Nilles 2, Alford 6, Ho. Mills 2, Brown 12, Young 4, Myers 3, Winter 1, He. Mills 2.
NEWTON: Antonowich 3, Bacon 7, Kernal 12, Berry 7, Akers 2, Schmidt 10.