AURORA — For the second straight season and 10th time in school history, the Newark Lady Norsemen are hoisting a regional basketball championship plaque.
It wasn’t easy, but Newark defeated a pesky Aurora Christian squad 43-40 on Saturday afternoon to win the Aurora Christian Class 1A Regional championship here at Donald E. Davidson Court.
Newark (22-6) now travels to the Hinckley-Big Rock 1A Sectional on Tuesday to face Kewanee Wethersfield in a 7 p.m. semifinal. The Lady Geese won their own regional 59-39 over Amboy on Friday.
Both Newark and Aurora Christian played even in the first half, with the Lady Norsemen outscoring the Lady Eagles 10-8 in the first quarter while ACS turned the tables and outpointed Newark 13-11 in the second to send the teams to the locker rooms tied 21-all.
Newark started to take control in the third quarter, forcing seven Aurora Christian turnovers and outscoring the Lady Eagles 16-8 to take a 37-29 lead into the fourth quarter.
“That third quarter was huge,” said NHS coach Barb Scott. “I’m thrilled with the effort the girls gave. They fought hard. I knew it was going to be a battle, because Aurora Christian is a great team. I was thrilled to get this one.”
NHS center Evie Martin took over in the paint in the third, as she scored nine of her team-high 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting in the low post and 1-of-2 shooting from the free-throw line.
"(Martin) attacks the basket very, very hard,” Scott said. “She had a lot of looks in the first half that didn’t go in that would have changed the game, and I liked her intensity.”
Martin scored four points during an 8-0 Lady Norsemen run to open the second half.
“The coaches told me to keep driving and eventually the shots will go in.” Martin said. "That motivated me to work harder and to keep driving to the basket.”
Martin’s rebound basket at the 5-minute, 10-second mark of the third quarter put Newark up 29-21 before AC's Tori Henning (16 points) scored five straight, including a trey with 4:11 left, to cut the Lady Norsemen lead to 29-23.
Newark then outscored Aurora Christian 7-0 to extend the lead to double figures at 36-26, but Henning dialed up a 3-point basket from well beyond the arc to pull the Lady Eagles to within seven with 1:06 left in the third quarter. A Jocelyn Mitchell (eight points) layup opened the fourth-quarter scoring and moved the Lady Norsemen back to a double-figure lead, 39-29, but Newark then went cold from the floor as their next points came on a Brooke Kala basket with 1:42 left in the game.
However, during that cold stretch by the locals, Aurora Christian could only convert baskets by Megan Hart and Lauren Richert and still trailed 39-33 before an old-fashioned three-point play by Henning got the Lady Eagles to within three at 39-36.
With Newark leading 41-38 with 14.3 seconds left, Mitchell went to the free-throw line and hit both to put the game out of reach, though Dannielle Lopez hit a shot with 4.7 seconds left to make the final score.
For the game, Newark shot 18 of 47 (38 percent), while Aurora Christian was 16 of 39 (33 percent).
“I would say the combination of us not shooting the ball well and allowing (Newark) two or three shots on quite a few possessions is what did us in.” said ACS coach Burney Wilkie.
Newark sophomore point guard Meggie Scott finished with six points, nine rebounds and seven assists, while junior Alyssa Gittins had six points, six rebounds and four steals.
Newark 43, Aurora Christian 40
(Key: FG-FGA FT-FTA TP)
NEWARK (43) — Kala 2-4 0-0 4, Schofield 1-5 0-0 2, Sweeney 0-0 0-0 0, Scott 2-11 1-2 6, Tomsa 2-4 0-0 5, Gittins 3-5 0-0 6, Mitchell 3-5 2-5 8, Malone 0-1 1-2 1, Martin 5-12 1-3 11. Totals 18-47 5-12 43.
Aurora Christian (19-8) 8 13 8 11 — 40