The Tigers rolled to a 66-41 win over Garrettsville Garfield.
By DOUG CHAPIN
ROOTSTOWN -- The Newton Falls High girls basketball team scored the first 20 points of a 66-41 rout of Garrettsville Garfield, in the Division III sectional Tuesday at Rootstown High School.
Tigers' junior guard Desiree Sterling scored 28 points on 13-for-16 shooting, with 11 rebounds, five assists and three steals. She was backed by Megan McElravy, who had 15 points and four steals.
Newton Falls (17-4) dominated with its pressing defense and motion offense. "The press has been a weapon for us all year," Tiger coach Kelly Nelson said. "Our strength is our quickness. We don't have much height."
Waterloo next: Newton Falls had beaten Garfield (5-15) in early January, 71-45. The Tigers face another Portage County League school, Waterloo, Thursday in a sectional final.
Waterloo (17-4), which beat Hathaway Brown 45-36, was a contender in the PCL race, won by Southeast.
Newton Falls battled eventual champion Girard and Hubbard in a three-way race in the Trumbull Athletic Conference.
"I think our league prepares us better for the tournament," Nelson said of facing another PCL opponent. "Look what Hubbard did to Southeast Monday night."
The Eagles beat previously-undefeated Southeast 59-42 in the Division II sectional at Austintown.
Acclimated: Tuesday's game was little more than a chance for the Tigers to get acclimated to the surroundings at Rootstown. Third-seeded Newton Falls led 22-4 after one quarter and 42-10 at halftime. Garfield, which was led by Sarah Collins with 10 points, never got closer than 20 in the second half.
Newton Falls shot 29-for-63 for the game and forced 26 Garfield turnovers. The Tigers moved the ball well, recording assists on 17 of their 29 field goals.
"It was a chance for us to get used to the gym," Nelson said. "You can't get used to the gym if you're playing a team like Regina in your first game."
The top-seeded Royals loom as a potential opponent for Newton Falls should it get past Waterloo and second-seeded Bedford Chanel. But Nelson isn't thinking that far ahead.
"We'll take them one game at a time," Nelson said. "After all, Waterloo is no slouch team."