By Josh Brown
PLEASANT HILL — Newton girls basketball coach Steve Fisher has seen a lot over the course of his career.
Few things have made him feel quite like what he saw Thursday night did.
Three different Indians hit 3s in the final minute of regulation to erase a seven-point deficit to Miami East, including Tatum McBride’s game-tying bomb with eight seconds remaining to force overtime. And in the extra period, Newton’s Macy Flanary hit an early jumper to give control to the Indians, and they hit just enough free throws the rest of the way to hold off yet another late Viking rally to claim a hard-fought 61-59 victory Thursday at Newton.
Miami East (5-8, 3-3 Cross County Conference) had rallied from a deficit as big as nine in the second quarter to take a 50-43 lead in the fourth. But Flanary, Elizabeth Carroll and McBride each hit 3s in the final minute to tie the score at 52-52. Newton (7-2, 3-1 CCC) then built a 61-54 lead in the overtime before the Vikings closed the gap again in the end.
“I’ve been in this for 43 years, and that’s as proud a time as I’ve had as any,” Fisher said. “I won a state championship, but when you have a bunch of girls who are the quality that these kids are, and the fact that I believe Newton has come from a situation where they now are learning how to win and what it takes to win, it makes you proud of the program that you’re running here.
“A lot of other teams, down six with 40 seconds to go, they would hang it up, take some wild shots, whatever — but we didn’t do that. I’m very proud of them. As proud as I’ve been of this bunch.”
For the Vikings, the difference may have been early on.
The teams traded the lead three times early in the first before McBride hit a pair of free throws to give the Indians the lead, then she converted a steal and a layup to make it an 8-5 game. Miami East kept it close, but after an Amber Kinnison bucket cut Newton’s lead to 10-9, the Indians finished the quarter by converting two more turnovers to take a 14-9 lead after one, then they converted two more Viking turnovers to take an 18-9 lead early in the second.
“The difference, in the end of the game, was the first quarter,” Miami East coach Bruce Vanover said. “We lose the first quarter 14-9, get down 18-9, but then we win every quarter after that except the overtime. We had 12 turnovers at half — we talk about valuing every possession and taking care of the ball, but when you’re turning it over, you’re not doing that. We started a little slow, but then we got rolling.”
Kinnison — who had a monster game off the bench for the Vikings — scored six straight point to get East back into the game and make the score 18-17, but Kaylee Kesler hit a 3 to widen the gap again. A 3 by Camryn Miller and a steal and layup by Kaitlyn Mack eventually tied the score at 23-23, Kesler hit another 3 to give the lead back to Newton, Miller hit a 3 to tie the score again and Kesler canned a jumper to cap off a hectic final minute of the first half, with the Indians up 28-26.
Kesler scored 10 of Newton’s 14 second-quarter points, while Kinnison and Miller combined for 18 points in the first half for the Vikings.
“Kesler carried us early,” Fisher said. “Our posts early, and Kesler in the second quarter. When we weren’t making shots early, Kesler came through in the second. That was as important to us as anything, keeping us where we were in the first half.”
“We had some younger kids step up tonight,” Vanover said. “Kaitlyn Mack and Maria Staton — Kaitlyn is playing varsity for the first time, Maria is a sophomore. Cam Miller did some nice things, and I thought Kinnison kept us in the game early, and I thought the girls did a good job of getting her the ball when she was rolling.”
Things remained close in the third until a pull-up 3 by McBride gave the Indians a 37-32 lead, then the Vikings missed three chances inside and McBride scored a fast-break layup to make it a seven-point game. A 3 by Miller and a three-point play by Staton brought the Vikings back to within one, but a bucket by Anna Wolf gave the Indians a 41-38 lead.
From there, the Vikings went on an 11-0 run, beginning with cutting Newton’s lead to 41-40 at the end of three. Kinnison then converted back-to-back three-point plays to give East its first lead since the first quarter and then extend it, and a series of free throws gave the Vikings their biggest lead of the game at 49-41 before a Kesler jumper ended the run with less than three minutes to play, and with one minute left the Vikings held a 50-43 lead.
But no lead was safe.
Kesler found Flanary open for a 3 to make it a four-point game, then Mack hit a free throw to keep the gap at five. Kesler then set up a 3 by Carroll to make it 51-49, and another free throw by Mack made it a three-point game. But with eight seconds on the clock, Kesler dished out one last assist, with McBride canning the game-tying 3 to tie the score at 52-52 and force overtime.
“We just kind of ran a little thing that brought Tatum off of some screens, and it just happened that Flanary and Carroll hit 3s on it,” Fisher said. “Liz can shoot the ball, just hadn’t shot the ball well tonight. It just goes to show that … we preach to the kids from day one that you’ve got to play the next possession. You can’t worry about what happened the last possession or in the first quarter. When you’re shooting the ball, you can’t worry about the last shot you missed. Same way with Tatum making a 3 down the stretch to tie the game and get it into overtime.
“We told the girls with one minute left that we’ve still got plenty of time and not to panic, and we didn’t. That was the key. We passed the ball around, got good shots at the end and we made them. We hadn’t made some shots, but we made them when we had to. We hadn’t made some free throws, but we made them when we had to.”
Kesler set up a jumper by Flanary to give the Indians the early advantage in overtime, and that’s where things stayed until there was less than a minute remaining as both teams struggled to hit free throws. But after a missed front end of a one-and-one by Newton, McBride got the offensive rebound and hit both of her free throws to make it a four-point game, and two more McBride free throws made it 58-52 with 26.6 seconds left. The teams traded free throws until Newton led 61-54, then Mack hit a 3 with 2.2 seconds remaining. Miller cashed in a steal to make it a two-point game, but the buzzer sounded to end the rally.
McBride had a game-high 19 points, team-high five rebounds and added four assists for the Indians and Kesler added 12 points and five assists. Flanary had nine points, Anna Wolfe scored eight, Mallory Dunlevy had six, Carroll scored five and Aliya Stine had two.
Kinnison led the Vikings with 18 points, Camryn Miller had 11 points, Staton finished with 10 points, Mack had a solid all-around game with nine points, six rebounds, six steals and two assists, Bailey Miller had six points and Haley Howard added five points, six assists and a game-high 20 rebounds.
“In the fourth quarter when we blew our lead, it just came down to how we kept every in check all night, then we were a little late on three closeouts and the game swings the other way,” Vanover said. “We just missed some opportunities. We’ve just got to keep working. We’re still young as a team, but we get better every day. Newton’s a good team. We’ve just got to keep working.”
Newton remains on home Saturday, hosting Legacy Christian, while Miami East hosts CCC leader Tri-Village on Jan. 12.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.