NEWARK — There are several ways that a basketball team can battle an opponent with superior size, and to quell Newark coach Barb Scott's fear that a tall Earlville-Leland squad could burn her Lady Norsemen inside, she chose to throw water on the matches and not let that fire get started in the first place.
In an early meeting of undefeated clubs, Scott's Lady Norsemen used their quickness and aggressive defense to pressure the Lady Raiders guards on the perimeter and keep the ball from going into the lane. Their effort out there resulted in 33 E-L turnovers and a plethora of steal-and-layup opportunities for the hosts, leading to their 54-37, Little Ten Conference win here on Monday night.
Meggie Scott scored a game-best 17 points, eight of those coming on midcourt steals turned into breakaway layups, and finished with seven steals. Freshman post Madi Malone added her season-best 14 points to lead Newark to victory in its LTC opener and sixth win in as many tries so far.
For the young Lady Raiders, who fall to 4-1 and 0-1 this year, Emily Cook popped in 14 points and snared 10 rebounds, and Taylor Weymouth chipped in 11 points.
However, that wasn't nearly enough to overcome the passel of miscues forced by Newark in the open court.
"Our defense was the key tonight, by far," said Coach Scott. "That's kind of been our go-to thing these first six games, and everybody's owning their position, everybody's doing their job, and it's working for us. ... (E-L) is big, they have so much size inside and we hoped that our guard play and our speed would counteract some of that, and it sure did. We need to keep working on our rebounding, and later tonight we started doing a little better job of that in there, but I think we frustrated them a little bit outside.
"Meggie had a nice game, and Madi Malone really stepped it up for us tonight. She's been rebounding real well, but it's nice to see her put some points on the board, too. ... This was a team effort through and through, and I'm thrilled with where we're at right now."
The Lady Raiders, with experienced 5-9 senior Emily Cook and 6-foot tall sophomore twins Kylie and Alex Koontz the main threats in the paint, didn't get the chance to do much damage, even at the outset. Newark, which pestered E-L into 12 turnovers in the quarter, used that manic style to a 5-5 tie with four minutes gone to go on a 14-0 run over the next three minutes. That included steals and layups by Scott and freshman Brooke Kala as well as five second-chance points by Evie Martin in the lane.
Newark's pace and shooting cooled off a little in the second period, but it extended the lead to 33-18 in the third before the Lady Raiders awoke. A 13-4 burst capped by a banked 3-pointer from the key by Weymouth that cut their deficit to just six, 37-31 with 7 minutes, 5 seconds showing in the final quarter.
However, NHS remained cool and knifed its way through the E-L press for seven of the next nine points. A 6-of-7 quarter from the field helped the home team pull away down the stretch.
"We have a young team, we made a lot of mistakes, and we need to make adjustments and fix them," said E-L coach Wayne Koontz. "I knew that was going to be an issue this year, but I was hoping we'd stay calm and handle it, but where I saw the openings, the girls didn't. Hopefully we can learn from this and next time make it a tighter game. ...
"Newark plays smart defense and they were calm on offense. We just couldn't rattle them with our defense. I would have liked to have seen a little more smart pressure defense out of my team. We had it at times, we just couldn't sustain it."
Newark 54, Earlville-Leland 37
(Key: FG-FGA FT-FTA TP)
E-L (37) — Cook 5-6 4-6 14, A. Koontz 0-3 0-0 0, K. Koontz 1-3 1-2 3, Niles 1-3 2-6 4, Pickert 1-2 0-0 2, Weymouth 3-11 4-5 11, Meloy 1-4 0-0 3, Myers 0-1 0-0 0, Ray 0-0 0-0 0, Farley 0-0 0-0 0, Hoaglund 0-0 -0 0. Totals 12-33 11-19 37.
NEWARK (54) — Schofield 1-3 2-2 4, Tomsa 0-1 0-1 0, Scott 7-15 2-2 17, Gittens 0-2 0-0 0, Malone 5-7 4-6 14, Martin 3-4 1-2 7, Kala 3-9 2-4 8, Sweeney 0-0 0-0 0, Skelton 0-0 0-0 0, Richards 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-46 11-17 54.
E-L (4-1) 9 5 12 11 — 37
Newark (6-0) 19 8 10 17 — 54
3-point goals — E-L 2-11 (Meloy 1-3, Weymouth 1-6, Niles 0-1, A. Koontz 0-1), Newark 1-8 (Scott 1-4, Tomsa 0-1, Kala 0-1, Scofield 0-2). Rebounds — E-L 25 (Cook 10), Newark 25 (Gittens 6). Turnovers — E-L 33, Newark 18. Total fouls (fouled out) — E-L 14 (A. Koontz), Newark 15.
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Why she was selected:
Meggie Scott led Newark's girls basketball team to the championship of the Somonauk Breakout Tournament.
Scott, the libero for Newark's volleyball team that just took fourth in the state, wasted no time making her presence felt on the basketball court. She scored 16 points in a win over Sandwich, scored 10 points with four assists in a 49-39 win over Aurora Central Catholic, had 13 points, eight steals, five assists and six rebounds in a 50-13 win over Hinckley-Big Rock and had 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the 51-35 win over Seneca in the championship game.
Record sports editor Joshua Welge spoke to Scott about her team's fast start, about playing for her mom and about the transition from volleyball. Here is an edited version of the transcript
Welge: How do you feel about the start the basketball team has had?
Scott: I think we started off pretty well, you could say that. It's good to have a weekend off to get some rest coming off volleyball – it's a long season. Going 4-0, you can't ask for more than that.
Welge: It was such a short turnaround from volleyball. How did you handle it?
Scott: On off days during volleyball season I go to the gym and shoot about 250 shots and I run occasionally. I've been working a lot in the offseason. To go from Saturday volleyball, to Sunday off, to then have a basketball game Monday was pretty crazy. I was tired, but we were on such a high that it was fun.
Welge: Besides four wins, what stood out from the first week of basketball?
Scott: Our defense won the Seneca championship game for us.
Welge: What makes your team's defense thrive?
Scott: I think we are quicker this year and deeper as a team. We are buying into the process that defense wins games and we are all doing our part.
Welge: What's the best part about playing for your mom [Newark head coach Barb Scott]?
Scott: We have a special bond. We get along, we are both competitive and we don't like to lose. We think alike. It's pretty fun. She coached quite a few of us in junior high in Lisbon, which is nice.
Welge: Do you and your mom talk about the games afterwards?
Scott: Right when we get in the car after we get off the bus we analyze every quarter of the game, what I can do better and what the team did well.
Welge: What does it take to be a successful point guard?
Scott: Mental toughness is important. Teams put a lot of pressure on you. You have to be able to see the court well. It takes a lot of practice, and I've practiced a lot. This year I think will be a lot easier. Our team jells so well together, and some of the other girls can handle the ball too.
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Barb Scott had a problem the last two weeks she'd happily accept every year.
Half her girls couldn't practice.
Scott, Newark's girls basketball coach, only had four girls at practice the first two weeks. The other six, including Scott's daughter Meggie, were busy leading the school to its first state volleyball appearance.
"A lot of people say it's a problem. I say it's a great problem to have," Scott said. "It is great for the culture in our girls programs to be in that situation, to have that kind of experience."
Scott sees that winning mindset carrying over to other sports. Not that winning has been an issue for the Norsemen in basketball.
Newark is coming off a 20-10 season that included an unbeaten record in the Little Ten Conference and a regional championship.
The Norsemen graduated All-Area post Jasmine Mitchell, but most of the rest of the core returns intact.
Scott, Newark's returning point guard, averaged 8.2 points and 7.7 assists last season. Alyssa Gittins returns as the Norsemen's leading rebounder at 6.9 per game, and Riane Tomsa grabbed 6.6 rebounds per game.
Scott scored 16 points in Newark's season-opening 44-36 win over Sandwich at the Somonauk Tournament.
"Meggie will run the show," Scott said. "I think we will be balanced. We could have four, five, six girls who can give us 10 points on a given night. We have a strong supporting cast. They're just unselfish girls. They don't care who scores."
Other returning upperclassmen are seniors Alyssa Schofield, Becca Sweeney and Reegan Skelton and junior Evie Martin. Sophomore Jocelyn Mitchell saw some varsity time toward the end of the season. Junior Morgan Richards is a newcomer to watch.
And Newak also will have freshman Madi Malone, who comes in off a fantastic season on the volleyball court. Scott coached Malone in junior high in Lisbon, and is happy to have her.
"She hasn't played a lot of basketball, but she's a proven athlete," Scott said. "I very much believe in girls playing more than one sport. I really push and encourage that. I think for kids like Madi it's a nice change of pace."
Scott expects to have a strong defensive team, which certainly seemed to be the case in the first game against Sandwich.
"No. 1, they work hard. No. 2, they communicate," Scott said, "and they're learning to be better anticipators. I plan on scoring a lot off of our defense. When they learn their positions, and know their roles, we'll be very good."
It will just take time, as the volleyball players get acclimated.
"We're going to be a work in progress for several weeks," Scott said. "It will take some time to get their basketball legs and get used to playing together. But they are strong competitors. They are determined and excited to get going."
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SOMONAUK — Considering the fact that seven of the Newark High School girls basketball players had missed the entire schedule of preseason workouts due to their pursuit of an IHSA state volleyball trophy, one would think it would be the Lady Norsemen who came into their season opener looking a little unprepared.
Turns out it was Sandwich instead.
Newark, while looking a little rusty shooting the ball, seemed in midseason form on defense, forcing four Lady Indians turnovers in the first 1 minute, 34 seconds of the opening quarter, 13 in that period and a whopping 35 for the game, a key figure in the 44-36 NHS victory here in the opening round of the Somonauk Tim Humes Breakout Tournament on Monday night.
Meggie Scott tossed in a game-best 16 points and Brooke Kala added eight, seven of those coming at the end of a 15-4 Newark run that took it from a one-point deficit with 6 minutes, 21 seconds left in the third quarter to a 10-point lead with 6:01 left in the fourth.
From there, the Lady Norsemen knocked down just enough of their free throws to hold off Sandwich's late charge.
"Our girls didn't surprise me at all. I knew that though we hadn't practiced as a group, they'd come out and play hard," said Newark coach Barb Scott, whose club also outrebounded SHS 31-26. "I expected Sandwich to come at us and full-court press us as much as they could, and we were ready for that.
"Absolutely, our defense was the key for us tonight. Thirteen turnovers in the first quarter (for Sandwich)? It was working for us then. Our defense is going to be a key for us this season because we won't be as big as we were last year, but we're very quick and we're very unselfish and they'll only get better the more they play together, and that's where we'll get our points."
In fairness to the Lady Indians, they too compelled a passel of turnovers — NHS committing a total of 31 for the game — and limited the Lady Norsemen to a predictably-cool 35.7-percent shooting (15-of-42). However, their inability to complete even simple entry passes from the point and wings led them to 12 miscues in the opening five minutes, while eight points from Scott, including a pair of treys, led Newark to a 13-5 lead late in the first stanza.
Sandwich battled back to a lead, using a 9-2 burst capped when Ezbeydy Rivera laid in a long Nicole Shipman pass for a 20-19 lead with 6:39 showing in the third.
But that's when Newark took off on the game's decisive run, starting with a steal-and-layup and trey by Scott and ending with a pair of Schofield tosses in the fourth.
Sarah Ness netted half of her team-high 10 points down the stretch, to no avail.
"It was a very typical first game, the same thing we did last year," said Sandwich coach Chris Johnson. "Newark's always been a good shooting team, and they did exactly what we thought they'd do, slow it down so they didn't have to go as fast as we wanted to go, and they're just good shooters.
"I can only imagine how many turnovers we ended up having. Thirty-five? The same as we started out with last year. That's a killer. You just can't have that many turnovers and expect a good result. ... Most of those turnovers came from their players tapping it out of our hands or we'd drop it. ... We just weren't ready to take care of the ball. We have to do a better job of taking care of that. We can't keep repeating those same mistakes over and over."
Somonauk Breakout Tournament
Newark 44, Sandwich 36
(Key: FG-FGA FT-FTA TP)
NEWARK (44) — Gittins 1-2 0-2 2, Scott 5-11 3-4 16, Schofield 2-3 3-4 8, Mitchell 1-3 1-3 3, Tomsa 0-6 0-0 0, Kala 3-6 0-0 6, Malone 0-4 1-3 1, Sweeney 0-1 1-2 1, Richards 0-1 0-0 0, Martin 3-5 1-2 7. Totals 15-42 10-18 44.
SANDWICH (36) — Dawson 2-7 4-6 8, Shipman 3-4 1-2 7, Rivera 1-1 0-0 2, S. Ness 4-8 1-2 10, Johnson 0-2 1-2 1, Vana 3-9 0-0 6, Mitchell 0-1 0-0 0, J. Ness 1-67 0-0 2. Totals 14-38 7-12 36.
Newark (1-0) 13 6 8 17 — 44
Sandwich (0-1) 7 8 7 14 — 36
3-point goals — Newark 4-14 (Scott 3-6, Schofield 1-2, Richards 0-1, Kala 0-2, Tomsa 0-3), Sandwich 1-4 (S. Ness 1-2, Johnson 0-1, Mitchell 0-1). Rebounds — Newark 31 (Tomsa 6)), Sandwich 26 (Vana 7). Turnovers — Newark 31, Sandwich 35. Total fouls (fouled out) — Newark 16, Sandwich 20 (Shipman).
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Winning can be contagious, and the Newark High School girls basketball team is hoping a little more of that “malady” floating around the hallways of its school will cross lines of gender and sport and fall on it.
The Lady Norsemen have not been without success in their own right, a year ago going 20-10 and winning both the Little Ten Conference regular-season title and a Class 1A regional before falling to eventual state champion Annawan at the Serena Sectional.
Shortly thereafter, the Newark boys team was rolling to a fourth-place trophy in Peoria and, as if they’ve taken that winning example to heart, the Lady Norsemen volleyball squad has reached the 1A Final Four in Normal this weekend.
Will that positive feel continue into the hoops season this winter? How long will it take to transition to the hardcourt? Or will the loss via graduation of 6-foot-3 center Jasmine Mitchell, a unanimous Times First Teamer and third leading scorer in the program’s history, be too much to overcome?
Those are the questions that coach Barb Scott and her quality returnees — seven of whom are on the volleyball squad — hope to answer this season, once they get their basketball legs back and start establishing their roles on the club.
“I think it’s going to take us several weeks to get in the groove and make this transition from volleyball," said Scott. "I know the girls will be coming off that big rush and will be emotionally and physically tired next week, and we open at Somonauk on Monday. The first few weeks will definitely be to survive and get back into the game, but once we settle in, we’ll be exciting.
“The winning atmosphere around the school is very exciting. Boys basketball has always been a big deal at Newark, so to get some of the girls teams getting that kind of success really does change the culture and gives them confidence. I’m excited to have all the girls experience that big stage, because it can only help our basketball program, too.”
Sophomore point guard Meggie Scott averaged a returning-best 8.2 points, 7.7 assists and 3.4 steals, to go with 4.2 rebounds a contest to earn unanimous Little Ten all-conference and Times Third Team honors a year ago.
Joining her at the core is senior guard Alyssa Schofield and her 7.9-point, 2.2-assist, 1.8-steal per game norms. Also at guard is Riane Tomsa with her 7.0 points, 6.6 boards and 2.5 steals. Sophomore Jocelyn Mitchell, Jasmine’s smaller, younger sister, saw some action last year and should be a substantial contributor this winter, as will freshman Brooke Kala.
Sophomore Alyssa Gittins, bringing with her 5.7 points and 6.9 rebounds, will step into the post, flanked by junior Evie Martin, junior Morgan Richards and another freshman, Madi Malone. Seniors Reegan Skelton and Becca Sweeney are battling to break into the rotation.
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