By Doug Chapin
NEWTON FALLS — The Newton Falls High girls basketball team followed its recipe for success, with the exception of a poor night at the free throw line, on the way to a 54-40 All-American Conference Blue Division triumph over Brookfield Thursday night.
The Tigers (8-3, 2-0 Blue) got 19 points and 13 rebounds from Kelsey McGregor, 12 points from fellow senior Blaine Chapman and solid contributions from two sophomores. Jenn Bjelac stuffed the stat sheet with seven points, seven rebounds, seven assists and six steals, and Destiny Prusky added seven points and six rebounds.
“That’s typical Newton Falls girls basketball right there,” Tiger coach Mark Baker said. “We get the ball down the floor, use an inside-out game, guards knocking some shots down to take the pressure off the post players. The post players getting on the glass and getting some easy baskets. That’s Newton Falls girls basketball right there.”
The winners shot well from the floor, making 19 of their 36 (53 percent) field goal tries, including 4-of-10 from 3-point range. Falls was a disappointing 12-of-33 (36 percent) from the line.
In addition, the Tigers held a 32-23 edge on the boards and used their swarming defense to limit Brookfield (5-5, 0-1 Blue) to a 28 percent (15-of-53) shooting night, including 4-of-19 (21 percent) from behind the arc.
“We’re a little inconsistent right now,” Brookfield coach Shawn Hammond said. “We came off two good games in our holiday tournament, which I was really happy with, and we had a great week of practice this week. I thought we were ready to go, but we come here and we go down 13-0 and were never able to come back.
“They did a nice job, they shot the ball well and they have a nice ball club. They gave us a hard time, we never got in any rhythm on offense.”
Newton Falls bolted to that 13-0 lead in the first six minutes of the game, but Brookfield used a patient offense and gritty defense to stay within 21-14 by halftime.
The home team came out of the locker room with a 9-0 run to increase the lead to 30-14. The advantage was 46-28 with 3:00 left in the game when the Warriors put together a quick 9-1 spurt to climb within 47-37. But there were less than 2 minutes remaining and Brookfield got no closer than 49-40 with 48 seconds left to play.
Ashley Swezey (23 points) and Kodi Brenner (16) combined for all but one of the Warriors’ points on the night.
Both teams have had to adjust to the fact they play just 10 division games this season, as opposed to the 14 league games in the old Trumbull Athletic Conference.
“Probably the most difficult thing about it is having that many non-league games before you play a league game,” Baker said. It’s very difficult for the kids to get geared up to play night after night after night against non-league opponents.
“I personally think we are right now where I thought we could be. Our non-league schedule, I thought, was very difficult. We started 7-1 and I think we started to see some teams make some adjustments.
“We’ve had to make some counter-adjustments and I think we’re starting to see those be effective. The kids have maintained focus and they are putting together a real nice basketball season.”