VALLEY CENTER, Kan.—Tuesday night’s basketball game at Valley Center featured a showdown between two ranked teams. The score was tied early in the fourth quarter, but the Newton girls emerged with a 52-41 victory.
Newton is the No. 3 team in Class 5A, according to the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association, while Valley Center is ranked No. 10. The Railers’ victory boosted their record to 8-1 overall.
“We played 27 minutes of good basketball,” he remarked.
The Hornets never led, but they battled back from deficits to tie the score three times Tuesday. Their four unanswered points to open the fourth quarter knotted the score 37-37 with 7:28 left in the game.
Newton put up four straight points of its own to take a 41-37 lead. The margin was three points, 42-39, with 2:41 on the clock. Senior Meagan Williams sank a pair of free throws to narrow the gap to one, 42-41.
That was the last time Valley Center managed to score.
“We were right there, had several possessions to take the lead and just didn’t get it done,” said Smith.
Newton sophomore Taylor Stahly collected a bucket with just more than two minutes remaining. When Valley Center regained possession, Stahly’s steal allowed Newton to spend time running down the clock. The Hornets were forced to foul, and Stahly’s two free throws left the visitor with a 46-41 advantage at the 1:31 mark.
Valley Center continued to foul but failed to capitalize on its possessions. The Hornets were whistled for a charging foul, gave up the ball to a Newton steal, and missed field goals in the last 1:31. Newton went eight of 14 from the stripe during that period.
“They just handled the pressure better down the stretch,” said Smith.
He added that Valley Center, now 6-3, had not trailed in late-game situations much this season. He said it was his job to make sure the Hornets practice for those scenarios.
Williams and junior Megan Barnes led Valley Center with eight points each Tuesday. Newton junior Jacqueline Anderson scored a game-high 12 points, followed by Stahly and senior Abbie Lehman with 11 apiece.
Newton will host a midseason tournament next week, and Valley Center will compete at McPherson. Smith said the Hornets were hoping to compete for a tournament championship.
“We’ve got to be better next week than we were this week,” he said.