The East Newton Lady Patriots turned in one of their best performances of the season on Saturday as they rolled past the Willard Lady Tigers, 35-20, in the championship game of the 2nd annual Seneca Girls Basketball Tournament at Seneca High School.
East Newton improved to 14-8 overall.
Defense was the name of the game for the Lady Patriots as they turned in a stellar performance guarding the basket. While Willard didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, credit the Lady Patriots for making them pay for it. Willard, who trailed 16-7 at halftime, got few offensive rebounds, and the relentless approach from East Newton kept them from getting many open looks on the floor.
“We talk all the time about our defense,” Lady Patriots coach Marty Rinehart said. “We kind of pride ourselves on our defense. I thought (our team) did an excellent job of doing what we tried to do as far as limiting them and some of their strengths. We were able to maintain that, pretty much, for four quarters.”
One of those strengths Rinehart was alluding to is Willard’s ability to score in the paint. The Lady Patriots made an effort to instead use Willard’s size to their own advantage.
That plan was executed to perfection.
“We knew that Willard was going to be a good opponent,” Rinehart said. “We really challenged (our team) to be good coming out of the gate. We tried to make it where they were going to have to guard one-on-one.”
A patient team on offense, East Newton managed to pick its shots wisely, usually making them count. Even though it was early, Shelbey Thomlinson plunged a dagger into the Lady Tigers when she nailed a 3-pointer to make it 21-7 East Newton with 5:39 to go in the third quarter. The lead later grew to 26-9 on an and-1 by Whitney Thomlinson with 4:06 left in the third. The lead grew to 21 points (33-12) early in the fourth.
“That’s probably the biggest difference between us from the beginning of the year to now,” Rinehart said. “We’ve learned to be more patient. For the most part, we were pretty patient and did a good job of getting more shots.”
Whitney Thomlinson led the Lady Patriots with 13 points, while Kourtney Brewster turned in eight from inside the paint, Shelbey Thomlinson had six, Haley Heilig pitched in four and Emily Brummett and Sarah Harper had two apiece.
Mariah Stewart and Chelsea Yates both led the Lady Tigers with four points apiece. Amber Percival, Rachel Williamson and Makenzie Parker had three points each, Caitlyn Carpenter had two and Ali Perry one.
Brewster was named tournament MVP at the conclusion of the game while Heilig and Shelbey Thomlinson all were selected to the all-tournament team. Percival and Stewart were selections from Willard.
Page 2 of 2 - It was a nice bounce-back for the Lady Patriots whom, after struggling mightily on offense with just 17 points through three quarters, went on a 15-0 fourth quarter run and downed Neosho, 32-24, on Friday.
Neosho led 22-8 at halftime.
Brummett and Shelbey Thomlinson each had seven points in that one while Brewster finished with six, Harper five, Heilig five and Aubrey McDermott two.