Newton capped off an unlikely run and earned a share of the AV-CTL Division I title with Derby on Friday night, rallying from a seven-point deficit for a 50-41 victory over Maize for the Railers’ eighth straight victory.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Newton coach Randy Jordan said. “They kept (the title) in their sights, and they wouldn’t let it go. They were never at a point where they wanted to give up. They didn’t give up on me, and I didn’t give up on them.”
Early on, it was anything but assured. Newton’s shots weren’t falling, and it couldn’t take advantage of 10 Maize turnovers in the first half.
When Newton’s lone senior, Payton Roberts, was called for a foul on Maize’s Taylor Holmes, Jordan was hit with a technical foul with 1:19 left before halftime. Holmes made all four free throws, giving Maize (14-6, 8-4) a 22-15 lead.
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Newton bounced back with back-to-back buckets by Abby Schmidt and Kyndal Bacon, cutting Maize’s halftime lead to 22-19.
“I thought we really struggled in that second quarter,” Jordan said. “I was really hoping that technical didn’t come back to haunt us.
“The girls responded to it like they should, being champions, and they started playing harder and after that we just started playing better basketball.”
The Railers (15-5, 10-2) got the ball to start the second half and went on a 6-0 run. Freshman DesiRay Kernal converted a three-point play with 7.8 seconds left in the third quarter and Newton led the rest of the way.
“We spread the floor a little more (in the second half), and that gave us some driving lanes, gave us some room to work,” Jordan said. “Once we got the lead, the girls did a really good job of running our stuff and made Maize guard us. We didn’t do that in the first half.”
Kernal scored 11 of her 14 points in the second half. Bacon also scored 14 points, including six second-half free throws.
Newton, which outscored Maize 31-19 in the second half, also was sparked by sophomore guard Savannah Simmons, who scored her only six points of the game on three field goals in a 3:10 span of the third quarter.
“When she goes in the game, the tempo goes way up,” Jordan said. “People forget how fast she is.”
Holmes, a junior, had a game-high 15 points for Maize. The Eagles hung around in the second half thanks to three-pointers. Freshman Alexis Snodgrass hit two, and sophomore Bailey Stedman hit one. Junior Caitlyn Stewart hit the Eagles’ other three-pointer and finished with nine points.
“We just didn’t handle the pressure very well,” Maize coach Jerrod Handy said. “We rushed our offense, and they’re so big and tough inside.”
Maize: Roe 1, Stewart 9, Stedman 4, Holmes 15, Hanna 4, Snodgrass 8.
Newton: Bacon 14, Antonovich 4, Simmons 6, Kernal 14, Schmidt 8, Akers 4.