LAKE MILLS – The Newman Catholic boys basketball team has a senior-dominated roster that helps Knights coach Jerry Gatton believe the team can get things done in clutch situations.
With a wealth of experience, the Knights have certainly been in those situations before.
On Friday, Newman found itself tied at 47-47 early in the fourth quarter against a 16-4 Lake Mills squad that has a lot of talent but doesn’t quite have the Knights’ experience.
The experience won out.
Newman went on a 9-2 run early in the fourth quarter and held the margin with a 15-of-16 performance from the free-throw line over the final eight minutes to pull out a 71-64 victory over the Bulldogs.
“We needed a close game that would be a gut-check for them,” Gatton said. “Lake Mills is a good team.”
Newman pulled out early but Caleb Bacon, a 6-foot-3 sophomore for Lake Mills, sparked a third-quarter comeback that actually saw the Bulldogs take a brief lead.
Josh Fitzgerald, though, dropped in 10 of his game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter to help the Knights surge ahead.
Fitzgerald was 6-for-6 from the line over the final eight minutes.
Four Knights finished in double figures.
After Fitzgerald, Brady Gatton and Jacob Schutt had 14 apiece and Merritt McCardle 13 for the Knights.
Newman also got quality minutes, particularly at the defensive end, from its three key reserves, Evan Paulus, Jack McGuire and Sammyu Kratz.
“Our role players know their roles,” Gatton said. “All three guys off the bench played great defense.”
The Bulldogs also had four players in double figures, led by Bacon with 18, 15 of which came in the third quarter.
DaShawn Linnen added 17 for Lake Mills while Chett Helming and Mason Fritz had 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Newman (17-2) will again try to play at West Fork on Monday in a game that will decide the outright title in the Top of Iowa Conference East Division.
The contest has been rescheduled three times due to poor weather.
Lake Mills (16-5) enters Class 2A district play on Feb. 14.