MASON CITY – Despite a 16-2 season mark entering play on Tuesday, the Newman Catholic basketball team still seemed to feel like it had a chip on its shoulder.
The Knights, who are on the verge of claiming their second consecutive Top of Iowa Conference East Division title, may have felt like they were still in search of the win that will make other teams take notice.
After Tuesday, anybody who hadn’t noticed what the Knights have been doing this season will now have to take a strong look.
Newman broke out quickly and held off a strong third-quarter surge to dismantle Top of Iowa Conference West Division champion Forest City 76-50.
“I have wanted this team to play as a team,” Knights coach Jerry Gatton said.
He couldn’t have expected much more than what he saw on Tuesday.
The Knights went on a 17-0 run over the final stages of the first quarter and the start of the second quarter to burst out to a 28-7 lead.
Newman finished the first half with a 39-21 lead after shooting 67 percent from the floor over the first 16 minutes.
To its credit, Forest City regained its composure in the third quarter and pared the margin down to nine, but Newman responded with a 22-7 run to effectively end the game.
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“I told the guys if you want to play fast, it has to be a controlled fast,” Gatton said.
Five Knights scored in double figures.
Merritt McCardle, who recently broke the Newman school record for career three-pointers, was 7-for-8 from the floor with five triples and finished with 21 to lead the Knights.
Josh Fitzgerald had eight points in Newman’s final run and had 15 for the game while Brady Gatton had 13, Evan Paulus 11 and Jacob Schutt 10.
Riley Helgeson had 13 for Forest City while Noah Miller added 12.
Newman (17-2) is slated to travel to Sheffield on Thursday to face West Fork in a game that will determine the outright conference champion.
The Knights then close their season on Friday at Lake Mills.
Forest City completed its regular season with a 17-4 mark.