By Josh Brown
BRANDT — Newton girls basketball coach Steve Fisher liked the toughness his team showed.
Bethel coach Mark Mays sees his team ready to turn a corner — but not quite there yet.
The Indians (5-2, 2-1 Cross County Conference) were able to survive leading scorer Tatum McBride missing most of the first half in foul trouble, getting key contributions from other players to maintain control and then putting the game away late to earn a 53-40 victory over the Bees (1-4, 1-3 CCC) Thursday at Bethel.
Both teams dealt with tough spots early on.
McBride was held scoreless in the first quarter and only had five points by halftime, missing most of the first and second quarters after picking up two early fouls.
“The game was a lot rougher than maybe we’ve been used to,” Fisher said. “However, the thing I told the girls was that I was proud that we showed some toughness coming through that. That we were able to fight that kind of double-teaming and pressure and all of that, and to be able to find open girls and have some of our roleplayers step up up and make some big baskets for us — and save us, really.
“That’s the honest-to-God truth. We fought some foul trouble big time, and without Tatum at the point, other girls stepped up. We were up five when she had to sit down, and we were still up five at halftime. That was important.”
Newton forced turnovers on the Bees’ first four possessions of the game and took a 6-0 lead, but the Bees were able to withstand that and fight back thanks to eight first-quarter points by Delaney Hardert. Two of her baskets gave the Bees the lead, but each time, the Indians answered. A Klaudia Lowery steal led to a Hardert layup to give the Bees their first lead at 8-6, but Elizabeth Carroll hit a 3 to give the lead back to Newton. Bethel broke through Newton’s press and got it to Hardert for another layup, but Carroll hit a jumper at the buzzer to make it 11-10 Indians after one.
After a pair of Lowery free throws gave Bethel the lead early in the second quarter, McBride drilled a 3 for her first points of the game, then Mallory Dunlevy scored a putback after a McBride steal to make it a four-point game. Another jumper by Carroll and then a basket by McBride gave the Indians a 20-12 lead before McBride picked up another foul. The Bees got to within two at 21-19, but a pair of buckets inside by Anna Wolfe pushed the lead to 26-21 at the break.
“We didn’t take advantage of that,” Mays said. “That was when we should have gained some ground on them, and we didn’t. We’re at a crossroads, I think. We haven’t crossed over to the next level just yet. They’re a good team, and we hung with them the whole game.
“We don’t know what we’re capable of doing because we haven’t been there yet. That’s just part of learning to win.”
The teams played even through the third, with Newton holding a 36-31 lead heading into the final quarter. Emily Crase scored the first basket of the fourth to get the Bees to within three, but that was as close as they got. McBride hit a putback and then finished a fast break after a steal to push the lead to 40-33, and later a basket by Wolfe gave the Indians a 43-33 edge. Alaina Hawthorn hit a pair of free throws to end the run, but McBride answered by converting a three-point play.
A jumper by Morgan Crase got the Bees to within eight at 48-40, but McBride hit Wolfe for a fast break finish and then the Indians hit some free throws late to seal the win.
“We had a couple chances in the second half to build the lead to double digits, but we didn’t,” Fisher said. “We thought if we could get it to double digits, we could start taking some time off the clock, but it’s hard to take time off the clock when you’re being trapped and double-teamed and triple-teamed.
“Obviously, they rode Tatum. Their job was to get the ball out of her hands, and I thought she played very patiently and did what she had to do.”
McBride finished with a game-high 15 points and added 10 rebounds — but she was one of three Indians in double figures. Carroll finished with 11 points and Wolfe added 10 points and five rebounds. Dunlevy scored six, Aliya Stine scored four, Macy Flanary had three points and eight rebounds and Kaylee Kesler and Kassidi Alexander each scored two.
“What I like about this group of girls is that they like each other and are willing to share the ball,” Fisher said. “Carroll came up big tonight, as did Anna Wolfe. Those two played outstanding tonight and did what they had to do to get us the lead. I was real happy and proud and glad to get out of her with a win.”
Hardert led the Bees with 13 points, the only Bee in double digits. Lowery had seven points and seven rebounds, Morgan Crase had seven points and five rebounds, Hawthorn had six points and four rebounds, Kayla Grable had three points and three assists and Emily Crase and Becky Schwieterman each scored two points.
“We made turnovers at the most inopportune times, right when we were starting runs,” Mays said. “We made them at times when they hurt us most. They hit some free throws that sparked them, and they got McBride going — and that was one of the things we needed to take care of.
“We just don’t have that one player right now to take over a game. We have kids that can shoot, we have kids that can take it to the rim. We have all the athletes we need. We’re just not there yet. We’re competitive — every game we’ve played this year, we’ve been in. But competitive doesn’t win games. And I think, as we get into the season, those games are there. We just have to take advantage of those opportunities when they present themselves.”
Both teams are back in action on Dec. 29, as Newton travels to Fairlawn and Bethel travels to Tri-Village.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.