With his team trailing early 8-1 Friday night, Newton girls basketball coach Randy Jordan knew an adjustment needed to be made.
“What made the difference was we weren’t penetrating the zone,” he said. “We had driving lanes there – we could see them from the bench – so we started driving the ball and getting some nice looks that way, got in the lane and could dish it.”
The Railers went on an 8-0 run to end the quarter and never surrendered the lead after that in an 56-43 AV-CTL I victory, pulling to within a half-game of the league-leading Panthers.
Newton (13-4, 8-2) extended its lead in a 16-4 second quarter, and Derby (16-3, 9-2) never got closer than 10 the rest of the way.
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Derby had won the earlier game 50-46 on Jan. 8 in Newton, on the strength of 20 fourth-quarter points. But the Railers were able to avenge the loss with contributions from their underclassmen.
Sophomore Taylor Antonovich sparked the second-quarter outburst with two three-pointers, and sophomore Kyndal Bacon scored all 13 of her points in the second half, matching Antonovich’s point total.
Jordan said he sought out Bacon at the half.
“I encouraged her and told her she could do it,” Jordan said. “Sometimes, she just needs some confidence.
“We’ve just got to get to the rim. If you can get to the rim, you’re going to get fouled, the shots will drop and your confidence will come back. And I think she did. In the second half, she really helped us.”
Freshman DesiRay Kernal again led Newton in scoring with 14 after hitting 16 in the earlier game. Newton has just one senior, Payton Roberts.
Derby freshman Tor’e Alford, who had 23 points in the earlier victory, was shackled by fouls and scored eight. Derby’s 6-foot-4 freshman, Kennedy Brown, also had foul trouble and led the Panthers with 13. Both eventually fouled out.
Jordan credited the Railers’ showing in their tournament for their improved play.
“We’re a lot better team than we were back on Jan. 8,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of things well right now.”
Bacon played a huge role, Antonovich said.
“Kyndal really knows how to turn up the heat when the game gets tough, and she can handle the ball like a champ,” Antonovich said.
A beaming Bacon was thrilled afterward.
“We just wanted to take it to them, and we’ve really been looking forward to this game,” she said. “We wanted to beat them, and we wanted to beat them bad.”
Derby coach Jodie Karsak acknowledged that the second quarter made the difference.
“I just felt mentally they were tougher than us,” she said. “We didn’t hit. When we got behind, we were trying to score real fast, rather than passing the ball around and getting a high-percentage shot.
“Unfortunately (Friday night), we just didn’t have it.”
Newton: Roberts 7, Kernel 14, Antonovich 13, Akers 3, Schmidt 4, Simmons 2, Bacon 13.
Derby: Brown 13, Hartman 4, Young 6, Alford 8, Ha. Mills 7, Ho. Mills 5.