Newark’s Birthday Bash

Newark\'s Birthday Bash
Girls Basketball: Mitchell to Malone makes for a fantastic Newark finish
nHINCKLEY — As a back-and-forth second half wound down, it looked like Tuesday’s Class 1A girls’ basketball sectional showdown between Wethersfield and Newark would be going overtime.

With the game tied in the closing seconds, an errant Lady Norse pass appeared headed out of bounds. However, Newark’s Jocelyn Mitchell saved the ball and dished it back to reserve forward Madi Malone, who scored with 3.1 seconds on the clock. Wethersfield could not get off a final shot as its season ended with a heartbreaking 50-48 loss.

“I just wanted to win it for my team,’’ said Malone. “Jocelyn did a great job of saving the ball, and I was hoping she’d dish it to me. I was ready for it.’’

Newark (22-6) advances to Thursday’s Hinckley-Big Rock Sectional title game against undefeated and top-rated Annawan (33-0). The Lady Geese bow out at 25-9 after winning their first regional title in six years, but were denied a third shot at their Lincoln Trail Conference rivals.

“We fought hard all season, and you want to be there at the end in a sectional game,’’ said Wethersfield coach Shane Tucker. “To have it end on a last-second shot. … we just didn’t get the breaks. It just didn’t happen for us. I’m proud of the way we played, but (Newark) made the plays at the end and we didn’t.’’

But the sophomore had arguably the biggest moment of her young career in the waning seconds of the second Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock sectional semifinal.

Up 26-20 at halftime after closing the first half with a 5-0 spurt, the Geese went cold from the field in the third quarter, hitting just two of 17 field-goal attempts. That enabled the Lady Norse to claw their way back and take their first lead of the night with 1:42 left in the period. In a sign of things to come, a Malone bucket with 13.5 seconds left put Newark up 32-31 entering the fourth quarter.

“Wethersfield is a great team, with great players,’’ said Malone, who came off the bench to supply 10 points and five rebounds, “but I thought we played really well as a team.’’

Of his club’s third-period struggles, Tucker stated: “That’s kind of the way things went for us. We were in reaction mode compared to how we were against Amboy (in the regional finals), where we were aggressive and in attacking mode.’’

Scott, who matched Wethersfield guard Lexi Nichols; 19 points for game-high honors, tied the game at 48-48 with her fifth 3-pointer of the night.

On a night when Wethersfield’s top scorer, junior guard Brittney Litton, was held to just two points on 1-of-9 shooting, sophomore guard Lexi Nichols, junior forward Tess Anderson and senior guard Tori Rashid pick up the slack. Nichols tallied team-highs of 19 points and seven rebounds, with Anderson adding 12 points and Rashid nine, including a pair of fourth-quarter treys that helped the Geese forge a 43-43 tie with 2:44 remaining after they had fallen behind by as many as six.

Rashid’s tying bomb was followed by a Nichols three-point play that put her club up 46-43 with 2:11 left. Senior reserve Katie Perez provided Wethersfield with an extra boost, chipping in six points and four steals.

;[Malone] is a great athlete,; coach Scott said. ;It was a huge assist [by Mitchell] at the right time. It was a huge team effort.;

“I won’t say we played our best offensive game,’’ said Tucker, “but we were able to do some good stuff, even with Brittney not scoring, with Lexi, Tess and Tori stepping up.’’

Brittney Litton had her lone field goal of the game with a minute and change to go to maintain the 3-point Wethersfield cushion.

However, Newark sophomore sharpshooter Meggie Scott ensured that the Geese would not fly to the finish down the stretch. Hitting five 3-pointers and tallying 19 points, she scored 10 of her points in the fourth period, including a 3-ball with 45 seconds left that knotted the score at 48.

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Aaron Ferguson Journal Star prep sports reporter @sports_aaron Newark’s Madi Malone scored with 3.1 seconds left after teammate Jocelyn Mitchell saved the basketball from going out of bounds to lift in a 50-48 win over Wethersfield in the Class 1A Hinckley Sectional semifinals on Tuesday.

Wethersfield (25-9) junior guard Brittney Litton, a 20-point-per-game scorer, scored her only two points with 1:20 left to give Wethersfield a 48-45 lead. But Meggie Scott hit her fifth 3-pointer to tie the game at 48 before Malone’s game-winner.

Lexi Nichols scored 19 points with seven rebounds and two steals to lead the Flying Geese. Tess Anderson was also in double figures with 12 points.

Newark (22-6) advances to Thursday’s sectional championship against defending state-champion Annawan.

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