MOROCCO — It was Senior’s Night at North Newton gymnasium, and the Lady Spartans were slated to play Tri-County, who made the chilly trek from nearby Wolcott.
Both teams were riding two-game winning streaks. The temperature outside was a windy 8 degrees, but the celebration inside was warm, honoring the five seniors on North Newton’s 2021-22 roster.
The crowd was sparse but noisy, the band played enthusiastically and mostly on key. The young ladies were accompanied to mid-court by parents and younger siblings, presented with bouquets as their heartfelt affirmations and future dreams were read aloud across the P.A. system. The girls were edgy with nervous excitement and early in the game it showed.
The Lady Spartans were aggressive but sloppy and couldn’t get anything going all night, ultimately dropping their record to 6-7 with a disappointing 64-49 loss to the Lady Cavaliers.
A pre-game talk with North Newton Coach Jenny Spiller revealed the girls had size and talent but “sometimes they showed up and sometimes they didn’t.”
Early on, both teams committed turnovers and the play was somewhat helter-skelter — more like a playground game. After the first quarter, Tri-County had staked themselves to a nine-point lead, one they never relinquished.
Newton’s three-headed rebounding monster of Harley Schleman, Heidi Schleman and Makenna Schleman dominated the backboard, and though they finished with a combined 39 points, they could never establish a consistent inside offense.
Their playmaker and top-five player in both assists and steals, Grace Hallopeter, was a bit off her game and was held scoreless in the first half, she finished with 6 points.
The Spartans went into halftime down by 13, with the deficit ballooning to 17 after the finish of the third quarter.
Thee Lady Spartans made a run in the fourth quarter as the crowd finally got into it, but North Newton never got any closer than 10, as Tri County marched to the charity stripe and drained most of their free throws down the stretch.
All told, Makenna Schlemen finished with a game-high 24 points while Heidi Schleman scored nine points Harley Schleman added six points to lead North Newton. Hallopeter meshed six points and Sydney Rainford dropped in four points.
Tri-County’s Brynn Warren led all scorers with 32 points, Sara Zarse added 17 points and Johnetta Whitmire meshed seven points.
Tri-County (6-8 overall, 3-1 Midwest Conference) will entertain Fountain Central on Jan. 13. North Newton (6-7, 1-1) will play again at Jan. 8 at West Central.