By Josh Brown
PLEASANT HILL — Newton girls basketball coach Steve Fisher knew what to expect out of a scrappy but young Bethel team.
And while the Bees delivered and kept things close for a quarter, the Indians (5-3, 4-2 Cross County Conference) used their defensive pressure to take control for good in the second quarter, turning a three-point lead after one into an 18-point halftime lead en route to a 66-44 victory Thursday at home.
The Bees (2-4, 2-3 CCC) kept it interesting for the first eight minutes, with the lead changing hands six times in the opening quarter. After a Maddie Callaham layup tied the score at 14-14 for Bethel, though, Mallory Dunlevy scored a pair of buckets inside and Tatum McBride hit a free throw to give Newton its biggest lead up to that point at 19-14 before a Kate Ellish jumper made the score 19-16 Indians after one.
And from there, it was all Newton.
“We felt going in that Bethel was going to try to make it ugly — pressure, running around, chasing the ball. So we had to go to pressure a little bit,” Fisher said. “And we think we’ve been pretty effective with our pressure over the course of this year.”
That pressure definitely proved effective, as the Bees turned the ball over six times in the second quarter — and when they did get shots off, they were held to one-and-done by Newton’s post players on the boards. A 9-0 run by the Indians, punctuated by one of McBride’s three 3s on the night, gave Newton a commanding lead. Bethel was held to only five points in the quarter, while another McBride 3 and a bucket inside by Dunlevy at the buzzer made the score 39-21 at the half — and Newton maintained roughly a 20-point lead the rest of the way from there.
“At one point, in 12 Bethel possessions, we forced six turnovers, and they made one 2-pointer,” Fisher said. “So they had one score in 12 possessions because the pressure also had them taking quick shots. And we shot the ball well in the first half, too.”
“It was turnovers,” Bethel coach Corey Steinke said. “When we start three freshmen, it’s tough. We came out with a gameplan, and it worked for a while — and then it kind of backfired. When you throw the ball around the court, turn it over and nobody gets shots, you’re not going to score that way.”
McBride had 14 of her game-high 19 points in the first half, while Dunlevy added 12 of her 18 points before the break and added six rebounds to give Newton an inside presence. Anna Wolfe threw in 11 points — eight of them in the second half — and four rebounds to give the Indians three double-figures scorers in a game for the first time this season.
“Mallory played really well, and Anna played better in the second half,” Fisher said. “Our post players are becoming more effective. We’re looking for them, and I think their confidence is getting better. That’s an important thing for us, that we’re finding other scorers than just Tatum. And Tatum played that game under pressure with only two turnovers. You can’t expect more out of a point guard than that.”
“We tried to go box-and-one on McBride, and it slowed her down for a minute,” Steinke said. “But she got open. We tried to help way too much — I put a lot of pressure on my guards to contain her, match her up one-on-one and give breaks to whoever needed them. And it worked for a while, and then we gave up turnovers. The key was turnovers and rebounding — we gave up too many offensive rebounds.”
Freshman Olivia Reittinger led the Bees with 10 points, and fellow freshman Kenna Gray added nine points — seven in the first quarter alone — and six rebounds. Alaina Hawthorn had five points and five rebounds, Callaham and Klaudia Lowery each scored five points, Delaney Hardert had four points and five rebounds, Ellish had four points and Makenna Floyd had two points.
Macy Flanary added six points and six rebounds and Brooke Deeter had six points and five rebounds for the Indians. Maddie Hildebrand chipped in four points and Michaela Kirk scored two.
Both teams are off until Dec. 28, with Newton hosting Fairlawn and Bethel hosting defending CCC champ Tri-Village.
“We finally have four days off — which is something they need, and I need,” Fisher said. “We have Fairlawn and Dixie next week, so we’ll come back Tuesday and prepare for those. We’re 5-3 right now — and nine points away from being undefeated. Three in overtime to Russia, two to Tri-Village on a last-second shot and four to Covington. We just have to take care of business and get ready for Fairlawn, but four days off are going to be good for these kids.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.