PLEASANT HILL – The Newton girls basketball team overcame an 8-1 deficit to start the game and won a physical-defensive game against Ansonia 43-39 in a WOAC matchup Thursday night.
Newton under 1st year coach Stefanie Landis came into the game with a 5-6 record and 2-3 in the Western Ohio Athletic Conference and a 4-game losing streak. But when you look at the teams they lost to it might be the most difficult part of their schedule with losses to the top two WOAC teams: 12-1 Tri-Village, 10-4 Mississinawa Valley, 11-2 Milton Union and Carlisle.
“We’ve gone through about in the last four or five games where we haven’t been able to make a shot not even wide-open lay-ups,” Coach Landis said. So, I think we’re struggling with the mental aspect of it, but we have to keep on pushing forward,” she added.
That trend would continue as Ansonia went ahead 8-1 by the two-minute mark of the opening quarter as Indians struggled to make shots.
Ansonia got 6 of the 8 points from sophomore guard Rose Barga to build their lead.
Newton would get to the line 6 times in the 1st quarter making 4, including 3 from senior guard Reese Hess. Over the last two minutes they scored 7 points including lay-ups from junior forward Felicity Harbour and the game tying shot from sophomore guard Estie Rapp.
But the Tigers answered quickly to end the quarter on a stick-back by senior guard Brenna Schmit to lead 10-8.
The Newton defense would step up on the 2nd quarter holding Ansonia to just 5 points while the Indians got a triple and a fielder from Hess and 4 points from Layla VanCulin to take a 17-15 lead at the break.
Newton was able to get 4 points from the field in the 3rd quarter from Harbour in the paint … but they also got 6 free throws from Hess who was able to attack the basket and get to the line.
Ansonia got a triple from Brenna Schmit and a bucket each from Bailey Schmit and sophomore Olivia Creager and would trail the Indians heading into the final stanza 27-23.
Newton expanded their lead to 37-30 as Hess continued to be aggressive scoring 10 points in the final frame.
In a game where officials are letting physicality play out, Hess was able to embrace it and push forward to help keep her team in front.
Given the physicality Ansonia ratcheted up the pressure even more trying to claw their way back trailing by 7 with 2 ½ minutes to play.
Two triples one by Brenna Schmit and the other from freshman London Reichert closed the gap to 41-37 with 1:30 to go. Ansonia Olivia Schmitmeyer was able to score a layup … but Hess answered with her own to close out the scoring to give Newton the 43-39 league win.
After the game I asked coach Landis about the play of senior guard Reese Hess who led all scorers with 24 points in the game.
“She was huge I am so proud of her tonight because she’s kind of been in a shooting slump the last couple of games, but she stuck with it. She’s been putting in the time, coming in and getting the extra shots and reps knowing one day it’s going to lift us up, and tonight it did. It was the opportune time because we needed her big time and she showed up in a big way,” beamed Landis.
Along with Hess 24 points, Felicity Harbour had 7, Brooke Hines and Layla VanCulin each had 4 and Estie Rapp and Mya Denlinger had 2 each for the Indians.
Ansonia was led Bailey Schmit with 9 points, Rose Barga and Olivia Creager each had 8, Brenna Schmit 6, Olivia Schmitmeyer 4 and London Reichert 3 for the Tigers.
Coach Landis was pleased with her defense and despite the losing streak is pleased with the progress of her team knowing they have had to learn a new coach and system.
“I think we played we played pretty good defense our girls hustle and have played good defense all year,” Landis said.
“We have three returning varsity players, so we have a young inexperienced group that haven’t had a lot of Varsity experience. Tonight was really our first really tight game that we’ve been in and was pretty proud of how they were able to fight through the type of game it was. If they turned it over, they would go down and get a stop. We always say we can’t control shots going in, but we can control effort and defense,” Landis said.
“These girls have done everything I’ve asked while learning a whole new system and I’m demanding a lot from them, and they’ve given everything I’ve asked and will to go out and compete. They never give up all the way to the end no matter the score. So as a first-year coach, I’m pretty proud of this group of girls,” Landis concluded.
Newton improved to 6-6 overall and 3-3 in the WOAC and will play a very good Troy Christian team on Saturday.
Ansonia fell to 6-7 overall and 3-5 in the WOAC and they will play Mississinawa Valley on January 20th.