Experience shows in Norsemen win
Updated: March 23, 2011 9:16AM
In the postseason, experience is everything.
Teams which have gone deep into the state basketball tournament before always seem to have an advantage this time of year, and Newark is no exception. With two straight trips to the Class 1A super-sectional round behind them, Friday's Hinckley-Big Rock regional title contest against the host Royals was the 12th tournament game for the four senior starters the Norsemen have played together in the last three years.
That experience showed as the Norsemen rode a stifling defensive effort in the middle two quarters to roll to a 61-34 win.
"We've been there so we have that going for us," Newark coach Rick Tollefson said. "The kids know we have to win seven games (for a state title), that's our goal and anything else would be a disappointment for us.
"It doesn't mean we are overlooking anybody or that we are better than anybody, it just means that is the goal we set this year and that is what the kids have their eyes on."
H-BR, which finishes the season 16-14, came ready to play, hitting four of its first seven shots and forging a 10-all tie when Mitch Ruh drained a three-pointer with 2:22 to go in the quarter.
Newark (25-1) had used two big runs to put Somonauk away in the semifinal round on Thursday and did it again Friday. Highlighted by a steal and dunk by Kyle Anderson and a putback by John Avery just before the buzzer, the Norsemen went on a 12-0 spurt over the next four minutes that made it a 22-10 game early in the second quarter before settling in with a 32-17 lead at the break.
"I think they hit every open look they got (early)," Tollefson said. "I thought we were playing good defense but they would kick it out and hit them all, so that was a little scary. We got it to 15 at the half, the kids did a good job."
The momentum carried into the second half, as the Norsemen pitched a shutout defensively in the third quarter. Settling into a 1-2-2 zone and staying completely inside the three-point arc, Newark held H-BR to 0-for-8 shooting from the field, including 0 for 6 from three-point land, and forced five turnovers.
By the end of the third quarter, the Royals had taken 26 shots from the field (hitting just 7) and had turned the ball over 19 times.
The Norsemen were content to just sit in the zone and let the Royals pass the ball around the perimeter while burning time off the clock. With a big lead, and with Kyle Anderson on the bench with a hand injury, Newark didn't mind the game being played at that pace.
They only took eight shots in the quarter as well, but made six of them and had a 13-0 advantage on the scoreboard. Until Ruh again broke the string with a short jumper with 6:05 to go in the game, Newark had held H-BR to just seven points over a span of 20 minutes.
"I told (the players) at halftime that the first couple of possessions would be critical," H-BR coach Bill Sambrookes said. "If we could cut into the lead it would be great but if they got a couple of scores quick it would be tough. We didn't score in that quarter so I guess I should have talked about something else too."
"We tried to make every shot a tough shot," said Avery, who led the Norsemen with a game-high 16 points. "We tried to contain them and didn't let them drive and kick it out. We just clamped down inside."
After scoring 11 points in the first half, Kyle Anderson left the game just seconds into the third quarter after catching his left hand inside someone's jersey and injuring the ring finger. The senior, who is the all-time leading scorer in school history, was in obvious pain as he called to the bench to be replaced.
As a precaution, Anderson spent the rest of the half with his hand wrapped in ice, and while it was still swollen well after the game, he felt confident that he would be ready for Wednesday night's Mooseheart sectional semifinal with Dwight.
Brett Anderson added 11 points for Newark, while Jeremy Anderson added eight. Bernie Conley paced H-BR with 11.
Wednesday's 7:30 sectional clash with the Trojans will be a rematch of last year's Somonauk sectional final, where Newark pulled away late for a 60-51 win. Dwight hosted its own regional and took care of business Friday night by defeating Gardner-South Wilmington by 14 points.
The Trojans present an interesting matchup inside with 6-foot-9 Jens Kennedy, who will be playing at Division II Quincy University next year. He had 20 points in the game between the two teams last season.
"I've seen them play three times and he is tough to defend," Tollefson said. "He gets it anywhere in the paint or around the basket, you wonder how to defend him. We will have to do everything we did last year and more to defend him. We are playing good basketball, but they have only lost three games and we have lost one. This is what happens in a sectional."