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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