GREENE – On paper, Tuesday’s girls Class 1A, Region 2 basketball quarterfinal matchup between Newman Catholic and North Butler indicated that the game should have been a toss-up.
The two teams had identical conference records and split their two encounters during the regular season.
In reality, the game would be a study in contrasting styles of play, and whichever team emerged as victorious was more effective in imposing its style on the opponent.
With a final score of 69-53 in favor of the Knights, it was clear that Newman and its penchant for up-tempo play forced the issue over a Bearcat squad that was more successful in a half-court offense.
“We got the pace we wanted,” Knights coach Mike Schutt said. “Our intensity was off the charts.”
Newman’s high-energy system got the upper hand early, in part because the Knights briefly stepped out of character.
All season long, the Knights’ offense was based on long-range shooting.
Newman attempted more than 32 shots per game from beyond the three-point line during the regular season, but Schutt’s early instruction was for his Knights to look to take the ball to the basket.
The result was a quick 17-6 lead for Newman.
Although North Butler managed to respond with a 13-0 run to briefly take the lead in the early moments of the second quarter, the advantage was clearly to the Knights for forcing the tempo into something much quicker than the Bearcats would be comfortable with.
North Butler managed to pull within five points early in the fourth quarter, but Newman guards Peyton Olson and Lily Castle converted 11 consecutive free throws over the final 1:24 to allow Newman to stretch the lead to its final margin.
“We had girls step up,” Schutt said. “Faith Wadle had two buckets in the second half and Keelan Curley played great defense. They have grown so much as freshmen.”
After struggling in Newman’s opening-round win on Saturday, Olson found her offensive stroke to lead Newman.
The senior, who leads the Knights in scoring at more than 16 points per game, overcame a scoreless first quarter to finish with 28, including 15 in the final quarter.
Olson was 12-of-14 from the free-throw line in the final eight minutes.
McKenzie Sullivan added 14 points for Newman.
Madison Pleas and Emy Osterbuhr had 13 points apiece for North Butler while Marcy Jacobs tallied 10.
Newman (13-10) advances to regional semifinal play on Friday where the Knights will again face a familiar opponent.
Newman will travel to Britt to face a sixth-rated West Hancock team that downed North Iowa 72-39 on Tuesday to advance.
The Eagles defeated Newman 72-52 on Dec. 19.