NEWARK — With the girls basketball postseason right around the corner, Monday night's nonconference game between Newark and visiting Seneca proved to be the type of on-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of scenario each may see when the format changes to survive or go home.
In a game in which the teams were never separated by more than six points, the Norsemen held off a valiant late flurry from the Lady Irish to earn a 52-49 victory here at Newark High School.
The Norsemen held a 50-44 lead with 1 minute, 24 seconds to go after back-to-back layups by post players Kaitlyn Hatteberg and Sienna Skelton. Seneca closed the gap with Cassidy Draves sinking a 3-pointer from the left wing with 30 seconds left and Brooklyn Giertz forcing a turnover that led to her own basket 10 seconds later to make it a one-point affair.
However, Newark (20-6) was able to quickly break the press, and Jocelyn Mitchell fed Hatteberg for a layup with nine seconds to go to put the home team up three. The Lady Irish (18-7) had one last chance, but a 3-point attempt at the buzzer felt short of its target.
"Wow ... that was a game ... this was one that we really grinded out," Newark said coach Barb Scott. "It is an especially nice win after winning the Little Ten Tournament a few days ago. We had a ton of uncharacteristic turnovers (24) tonight, but we were able to pick up the scoring in the second half and also at key times. The fourth quarter was just a back-and-forth battle.
"Kaitlyn and Sienna both did their jobs there in the final minute or so, and those baskets were so key in keeping us in the lead. It takes everybody, and this was a good team win for us."
Senior guard Meggie Scott scored all 13 of her team-high points in the second half, while also moving into third place (1,409) on the Newark all-time scoring list, passing Jasmine Mitchell (1,398). Hatteberg (six rebounds) and Skelton each added 10 points each, while Annika Myre chipped in nine on a trio of treys.
Seneca was paced by a game-high 19 points from Rita Jashari, with Giertz and Madison Bromberek adding 12 and 11 points, respectively — the former pulling down a game-best 13 rebounds.
Seneca raced out to an 18-14 lead after the first quarter, as Jashari netted eight points and Bromberek five. The second quarter was a rough one for both clubs, as they combined for numerous turnovers and collectively shot just 5 of 24 from the floor.
The Lady Irish took a 22-20 halftime lead into locker room.
"This was an excellent game. ... I thought both teams played really well," said Seneca coach Ted O'Boyle. "It was one of those games where neither team could really shake the other. This was a regional championship kind of game, for sure.
"Man, does (Newark) have some weapons on the offensive end and shooters from the perimeter. If their post players are making shots on you like they were tonight, they are an awfully tough team to defend.
"I'm extremely proud of our girls, I thought they played very well. This gym is a tough place to play, and we were right with Newark the entire game. Even when we were down six there with a minute and a half to go, there is just no quit in this team."
Scott opened the second half with a pull-up banker from 10 feet to tie the game and start a see-saw battle over the next 14 minutes. Newark held a 35-34 advantage heading to the fourth and opened the frame with a basket from Skelton and a 3-pointer from Scott to widen it to 40-34.
Seneca battled back to within one twice — on a Giertz layup at 4:35 and Jashari hoop at 3:55 — and finally two on a Bromberek free throw at 2:14 to make it 46-44.