MASON CITY – One thing that prep basketball coaches often point to as a key to a successful season is how well players step into new or expanded roles as needed.
The Newman Catholic boys team had the framework returning for another big year after last year’s Top of Iowa Conference East Division championship run.
If anything, the Knights are playing at a higher level now after a 69-41 dismantling of Osage on Tuesday in a matchup of conference title contenders.
“These guys are putting it together,” Knights coach Jerry Gatton said. “But we cannot be satisfied. We need to keep getting better.”
Three of the Knights who have embraced their roles for this season were at the forefront on Tuesday.
Merritt McCardle, who averaged 4.6 points per game a season ago, finished with 21, including 16 in the first half.
McCardle is averaging nearly 14 per game on the season and has connected on 35 three-pointers. He also had seven rebounds.
Jacob Schutt, who averaged 5.7 points per game last season, added a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Schutt is averaging nearly 10 points and nine rebounds.
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Evan Paulus, who played sparingly a season ago, added eight points, including a pair of threes, and has upped his scoring average to nearly six per game.
Two of the veterans, Josh Fitzgerald and Brady Gatton, added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
“These guys know their roles,” Jerry Gatton said. “They know what they are supposed to do.”
Newman took a 15-point halftime lead at 39-24 on the strength of McCardle’s long-range shooting.
The Knights turned up the defensive pressure in the second half and managed to extend the lead to 35 and get a running clock for most of the fourth quarter.
Brett Bobinet led Osage with 11. Jonah Bluhm had seven points, and Elijah Bluhm, as well as Nathan Havel, had six. Ty Creger had a pair of blocks.
Newman (10-1) returns to action Friday when it travels to North Butler for a rematch with the Bearcats, whom the Knights defeated 74-24 on Nov. 30.
Osage (9-3) returns home to host Central Springs on Friday.