NEWTON — Two more regular-season games remain for Newton’s girls. One of those games is on the road and the other at home.
The Cardinals gave their home crowd plenty to cheer about Friday night, facing Class 4A 15th-ranked Grinnell. Clad in pink uniforms for Coaches vs. Cancer Night for NHS, the Cardinals pushed the Tigers to the brink.
“Our girls played well. This was our best game defensively this season and close to being the best a Newton team has played in our three years here,” Newton girls’ head coach Brandon Sharp said following the 48-44 loss to Grinnell.
Nothing was settled until the final buzzer.
Hannah Rhoads hit a free throw to put the Cardinals up 44-43 with 1:46 left. Newton’s defense held and held. Rhoads even got a defensive rebound, but was called for traveling when she came down and went to the floor with 52 seconds remaining.
Grinnell still had the ball. With 25 seconds left in the game, Madeline Wilkins rang up a 3-pointer for the Tigers, putting them up 46-44. A 3-pointer by Rhoads was off at the other end and the Tigers controlled the basketball. The Tigers hit two free throws with 5.5 seconds on the clock.
The Cardinals came down and had a good look at a three but it was off as the buzzer said.
“What effort our girls gave tonight. The intensity and communication was always there. We’re very proud of our team,” Sharp said. “This is a game we can use as a stepping block to propel us through the final two regular-season games and into the playoffs.”
Newton is 5-7 in Little Hawkeye Conference play and 5-14 overall. Grinnell moved to 8-3 in the conference and 15-3 overall.
The Cardinals play at Oskaloosa Tuesday then come home against Pella Friday. Newton faces Pella in the opening round of the Class 4A Region 5 Feb. 19 at Pella.
Anneliese Wiltfang began the night with a 3-pointer for Grinnell. The Cardinals put a tough loss at Dallas Center-Grimes on Thursday night behind them and met the challenge of the Tigers.
Newton reeled off eight unanswered points starting with a putback by Lizzie Stock. Shelby Gray, Alex Hutchinson and Sarah Kalkhoff each had a basket. In transition, Michaela Jacobsen made a quick pass over two defenders to Gray for a basket, putting Newton up 10-5 at the 2:53 mark.
The Cardinals carried a 16-9 advantage into the second period. Sydney Jenkins scored for Newton with 5:46 remaining in the first half for a 20-14 lead. The Tigers were led on an 8-0 run by Deja Jackson, whose 3-pointer put her team up 22-20.
Gray used a turnaround jumper to tie the game. Grinnell pushed back to a 25-22 lead, but Jacobsen’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer sent the two teams to the break, tied at 25-all.
Jacobsen had a three-point play to break the tie opening the third quarter. Grinnell led 30-28 when Jenkins hit a free throw then Hutchinson stole the basketball and went in for the basket with 2:48 on the clock.
A baseline jumper by Jacobsen had the Cardinals back in front, 33-30. From that point on, it was back-and forth. Rhoads had a basket with 31.7 seconds left in the third quarter to lift Newton to 38-37 lead.
The game was tied two more times in the fourth quarter — 41-41 and 43-43. Grinnell scored the final five points to claim the win.
Jacobsen led the Cardinals with 10 points, four rebounds and three assists. Jenkins added nine points. Rhoads had five points and five rebounds while Kalkhoff had four rebounds. Hutchinson made two steals.
The Cardinals shot 38 percent, 17-of-45, from the field and went 9-of-12 at the free-throw line. Grinnell scored 21 points from the charity stripe, going 21-of-28.
Jackson was 12-of-16 from the line on her way to a game-high 20 points for the Tigers. Wilkins finished with 10 points.
Grinnell won the junior varsity game 49-40 Friday night.
Newton — Jenkins 2-5-3-9, Stock 2-0-3-4, Hutchinson 3-0-2-6, Rhoads 1-3-1-5, Gray 3-0-2-6, Jacobsen 3/1-1-4-10, Reynolds 0-0-1-0, Kalkhoff 2-0-4-4. TOTALS: 16/1-9-20-44.
Grinnell — Johnson 0-0-1-0, Wilkins 1/2-2-1-10, Wiltfang 0/1-4-3-7, Follette 0-0-1-0, Durr 0-1-0-1, Sharp 1-0-1-2, Jackson 1/2-12-2-20, Tielbur 2-0-4-4, Mulholland 1-2-1-4. TOTALS: 6/5-21-13-48.