The Newman Grove Bluejays kept digging out of holes with determined effort in the first round of the girls state basketball tournament Thursday at Lincoln Southwest High School.
In the end, the point deficits Newman Grove was forced to rally from were just too much in a 64-53 loss to eventual Class D1 runner-up Pender.
The Jays got off to an extremely slow start in the contest, fought back, fell in another deep hole during a stretch on each side of intermission, then rallied once more before finally running out of gas.”We knew turnovers would be crucial to start the game,” commented Newman Grove Coach Ross Nelson. “And that’s what got us in trouble. Pender is a very good defensive team and they’re big. It was hard to penetrate in there.
“I thought our girls did a good job of adjusting, but we were just down too much.”
Pender’s fullcourt pressure caused Newman Grove substantial problems in the opening minutes a keyed an 11-0 start for the Pendragons. However, after trailing 16-8 at the end of the first quarter, the Jays battled back to 16-13 on a 3-point basket by Brooke Nelson early in period two.
Pender outscored the Bluejays 9-2 to close the half, much of the damage done inside by 6-foot Pendragon freshmen Paige Ballinger and Maggie Fillipi. A 14-0 spurt early in the third period ballooned the lead to 39-21.
There was no quit in the Jays, however. Newman Grove had its best stretch of the contest late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, a 19-7 run closing the score to 46-41 on a bucket by Audrey Wondercheck with 5:32 to play. Once again, Pender regrouped behind their dominance in the paint. Rebounds and baskets by Ballinger and Fillipi and key contributions from junior guard Alexia Henschke spurred a quick run that pushed the Pendragon lead back to double digits.
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