By Josh Brown
WEST MILTON — After only scoring 12 points in the first half — yet still holding a two-point edge — the Newton girls basketball team heard it from coach Steve Fisher.
“Basically, my halftime talk was probably a few decibels higher than my normal speeches,” he said. “But we felt like we were standing around and playing back on our heels offensively and defensively, and that we had to come out and be more aggressive.”
Following that, the Indians turned up the volume themselves.
Newton, on the strength of 24 Milton-Union turnovers in the game, turned in a 40-point effort in the second half Thursday night, and four Indians finished with eight or more points on the night as Newton pulled away for a 52-26 victory over the county rival Bulldogs on the road.
For the Indians (2-1), simplifying things on defense proved to be the key.
“Sometimes you try to do too much,” Fisher said. “We were trapping and pressing and doing lots of things in the first half. In the second half, we just ran our base defense. We put a little more ball pressure out there, but we played our base defense. Basically, that was the turning point defensively for us. Sometimes when you’re trying to trap, you think you can score five or six points each possession. But once we got out running a little bit, we relaxed on offense.”
Milton-Union (1-3), meanwhile, was happy with the first-half effort defensively, holding Newton’s Tatum McBride to only three points in the half and trailing the Indians only 12-10 despite committing 11 of its 24 turnovers before halftime.
“In the first half, the girls did exactly what I asked of them,” Milton-Union coach Katie Roose said. “We were only down two points, and we should have been feeling good about where we stood — and we simply got outhustled in the second half. Tatum only had three points in the first half, and we felt like we were doing exactly what we needed to do. But I thought they worked harder and wanted it more than we did, and McBride was able to get hers in the second half.”
In the second half, though, Newton was able to get Macy Flanary, Anna Wolfe and Mallory Dunlevy involved in the post, opening the third quarter on a 16-3 run to take a 28-13 lead. That eventually opened things up for McBride, who finally got going and scored seven points in the third to help the Indians take a 33-17 lead going into the fourth.
“We tried to set some ball screens for Tatum — not just to get her shots, but also to let her make plays,” Fisher said. “The other kids started making some shots, and that opened things up for Tatum. Macy played really well, and Mallory — in the third quarter with her offensive rebounding, getting a couple putbacks to stretch our lead out — was big. Tatum, I thought, needed to relax a bit, and when the other kids stopped standing around a bit and started playing, she was able to.”
McBride finished with a game-high 17 points and added four rebounds and three assists. Flanary had 11 points and six rebounds to ease the burden, and Dunlevy and Wolfe had eight points and five rebounds apiece. Rachel Kirk chipped in four points and Brooke Deeter and Maddie Hildebrand each had two.
“I was real happy. I thought this was crucial game for us,” Fisher said. “And I thought we reacted very well in the second half. I’m very, very proud of them and the way they handled that second half.”
Beyonce Bobbitt led the Bulldogs with seven points and five rebounds. Freshman Jayla Gentry added a solid six points and five rebounds and Olivia Brown had five points and seven rebounds. Kristen Dickison, Milton-Union’s leading scorer, was held to three points but dished out five assists and added seven steals and four rebounds. Annika Hutchinson added three points and Morgan Nemeth scored two points.
“Beyonce, you know when she’s in the game, she’s going to give it her all all the time,” Roose said. “Shes willing to dive on the floor for a loose ball, she’ll fight inside to get a rebound, she’s willing to step up and guard the other team’s best player — anything you ask of her, she’s willing to work at, and she’s going to do it at 100 percent. Kristen has struggled here early, but I know she’s got it in her. Her time is coming. She just has to be patient and have the confidence in herself.
“This is a game that is going to test our mental toughness down the road. How we respond to a defeat like tonight is going to be important for the remainder of our season. The girls have the potential. We just have to be willing to work at it.”
Both teams are back in action Saturday. Newton hosts Bradford in a Cross County Conference matchup, while Milton-Union hosts Arcanum in the third game of its six-game homestand.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.