After a season-opening 68-66 loss to Osage, the Newman Catholic boys basketball team had the rematch circled on its calendar.
Much like the first go around, the Top of Iowa East conference rivalry didn't disappoint on Tuesday night in Mason City.
After coming back from an 18-point deficit and tying the game early in the fourth quarter, Osage couldn't sustain momentum to keep up with Newman Catholic. The Knights earned a crucial 66-62 conference victory.
"We knew they were going to be tough," Newman Catholic head coach Jerry Gatton said. "Would I have liked to see a more convincing win? Yes. But the W is a W. That's what it comes down to, and we always play a tough game against Osage."
The Knights were all over the Green Devils from the jump, getting in passing lanes and playing aggressive on offense. Newman Catholic jumped out to a 22-9 lead after the first quarter and extended it, 38-22, at the half.
Early in the third quarter the Knights led by as much as 18 points. But Osage came fighting back, and outscored the home team, 20-9, in the third period to cut the score to 47-42 heading into the final eight minutes.
With 6:30 left in the game, the Green Devils tied the score, 49-49.
"Coach Brahn and I were sitting there talking before the game and after the game," Gatton said. "Can we ever just have a game and win it straight out instead of having it come down to the last second? It just hasn't been that way."
The Knights took the lead after the tie and held on to it for the rest of the game.
Up 63-62, Newman Catholic junior guard James Jennings was at the free-throw line with a 1-and-1 situation. He sunk the first free throw and missed the second. But the Knights earned a defensive stop on the other side of the court and threw it ahead for a layup to seal the 4-point victory at the buzzer.
For Osage head coach Mike Brahn, a positive takeaway from the game was that his kids never quit fighting.
"Just real proud of that effort in the second half," Brahn said. "That was game number six in the last nine days. We don't have a lot of legs left right now and that was pretty obvious the way we started out the game."
Sophomore Noah Hamilton led the Knights with 16 points, while sophomore Doug Taylor finished with 15 points. Senior Eric Bobinet paced the Green Devils with 21 points.
Newman Catholic improves to 6-2 with the win, while Osage falls to 8-3.
The Knights play at 7:45 p.m. on Friday at North Butler, while the Green Devils play Central Springs at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at home.
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Newman Catholic boys basketball vs Osage - Jennings
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Newman Catholic boys basketball vs Osage - Taylor
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Newman Catholic boys basketball vs Osage - Burt
Gunnar Davis covers education and sports. Reach him via email at Gunnar.Davis@GlobeGazette.com or by phone 641-421-0598.