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DES MOINES — Newton qualifying for the state boys’ basketball tournament was a surprise.
Newton beating top-ranked, perennial power Iowa City West? Luckily for the Trojans, they don’t have to worry about how that would be described.
West narrowly avoided becoming the third ranked victim of the Cardinals this postseason, clinging to a 57-51 victory that also matched the Trojans’ largest lead of Wednesday’s Class 4A boys’ state basketball quarterfinal.
“We survived,” West Coach Steve Bergman said.
West (21-3) advanced to the semifinals for the seventh straight year and will take on MVC rival Cedar Rapids Kennedy at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
The Cardinals (19-6), making their first state tournament appearance since 1992, upset ninth-ranked West Des Moines Dowling and Johnston in the substate to get here. But it was clear from the start that Class 4A’s smallest school wasn’t settling for simply playing at Wells Fargo Arena.
Behind easily the largest and loudest first-round crowd up to that point, Newton ended the first half on an 8-0 run to go up 30-28 and firmly announce itself.
“It was pretty much like we were playing on the road,” West’s Connor McCaffery said. “It felt like we were in their gym.”
The Trojans trailed for much of the third quarter, then stepped it up defensively in the fourth. Newton scored just two points in the first 6:57 of the final period after carrying a 45-43 lead.
The Cardinals had eight turnovers in the second half after just two through 16 minutes.
“I thought our defense first half was not characteristic,” Bergman said. “Second half I thought it was a lot better. We kind of let the genie out of the bottle in the first half because they’re a very good offensive team. The second half I felt like we got a lot of stops.”
It’s been a trying week for Bergman, who missed a day of practice after his father-in-law passed away.
“We showed a lot of heart, a lot of character,” Bergman said. “Been kind of a tough week for everything. We were a little bit out of routine this week.”
Even once West was in command, advancing didn’t come easily. The Trojans were 5-of-10 at the free-throw line in the final minute, but locked down on the other end.
“I hope the next two games aren’t shaky like that,” Lane said. “I think it was good for the guys who haven’t played here a lot. It really relaxes them and gets the nerves out, gets all the jitters out. I guess you could call it a good warm-up game.”
West got it done despite limited production from sophomore standout Patrick McCaffery, who didn’t score until making a pair of free throws with 2:00 to go. Averaging 14.3 points, he missed his only shot from the field (a failed alley-oop) and finished with three points and three blocks before fouling out.
Connor McCaffery and Lane led the way with 18 points apiece. Those two and Ono-Fullard hit two 3-pointers each for the Trojans, who buried six of their first seven before missing their final seven. Lane’s putback with 4:21 remaining broke the game’s final tie.
“Our seniors did the job for us today,” Bergman said. “They carried us.”
As they have throughout the season, Newton guard duo Connor Gholson (24) and Garrett Sturtz (20) did the bulk of the Cardinals’ scoring, combining for 44 of their 51 points.
This really was about as close to a “Hoosiers” storyline as you can get, minus the ending.
“We got on a bus this morning after breakfast and basically did a parade route through our town,” said Newton Coach Bill Liley, who moved in from Washington state before last season. “There were people lining the streets, little kids outside of the YMCAs with handmade signs and people honking horns, jumping up and down and waving. Grown men wiping tears from their eyes. It was an amazing sight.
“I’m really sad right now that we couldn’t win for them, but I’m proud of these guys for the effort they put forth.”
IOWA CITY WEST 57, NEWTON 51
4A State Quarterfinal, at Des Moines
IOWA CITY WEST (57): Devontae Lane 5-14 6-7 18, Nate Disterhoft 0-0 1-2 1, Patrick McCaffery 0-1 3-4 3, Connor McCaffery 5-12 6-10 18, Izaya Ono-Fullard 2-2 1-2 7, Evan Flitz 0-0 0-0 0, Seybian Smis 2-2 0-0 4, Hakeem Odunsi 2-3 2-3 6. Totals 16-34 19-28 57.
NEWTON (51): Garrett Sturtz 7-13 6-8 20, Connor Gholson 10-20 1-1 24, Trey Vanderlaan 2-3 0-0 5, Josh Ventling 0-0 0-0 0, Morgan Maher 1-3 0-1 2, Grayson Graham 0-1 0-0 0, Qintrail Coley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-40 7-10 51.
Halftime: Newton 30, West 28. 3-point goals: West 6-14 (Lane 2-5, C. McCaffery 2-7, Ono-Fullard 2-2), Newton 4-10 (Gholson 3-9, Vanderlaan 1-1). Team fouls: West 12, Newton 20. Fouled out: P. McCaffery, Ventling, Maher. Rebounds: West 24 (Disterhoft, C. McCaffery 4), Newton 20 (Maher 6). Assists: West 10 (Lane, P. McCaffery 3), Newton 8 (Sturtz, Maher 3). Steals: West 7 (Lane, Odunsi 2), Newton 3 (Sturtz 2). Turnovers: West 10, Newton 10.
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