ROCK FALLS – After a frantic first quarter, the Polo Marcos and Newman Comets finally settled in against the opposing zone defense.
The Comets just settled in a little better.
Newman took control with a second-quarter surge, then knocked down enough shots to keep Polo at bay in a 58-50 victory Saturday at the Rock Falls Shootout.
The Comets (11-3) outscored the Marcos (8-5) 20-10 in the second period, thanks in part to Nolan McGinn’s ability to get to the basket and his teammates’ ability to create open shots in the gaps of Polo’s 2-3 “amoeba” zone defense.
With Newman employing their line-change mentality, sophomore McGinn and freshman Noah McCarty picked up the scoring slack when the Comet starters went to the bench.
“Noah and I wanted to prove we can play and score at this level,” said McGinn, who scored 12 points. “We knew we needed to keep it going when the starters went out, not let Polo win while we were in so the starters have to come back and save us.”
Newman took a 28-20 lead into halftime, and fed the ball to senior Kyle Moore in the paint to stretch the lead after the break. Moore scored eight of his 15 points in the third quarter, as the Comets made a concerted effort to work their offense inside-out.
Polo, which struggled from the perimeter all game long, used the same strategy in the second half. Senior center AJ Dollmeyer became the focal point in the paint, and he kept the Marcos in the game with 14 of his game-high 19 points after halftime.
“We were just trying to minimize the forced shots, because we forced a lot of things in the first half,” said Dollmeyer, who made all eight of his shots and also had seven rebounds and three blocks.
The difference was, the Comets’ midrange jumpers were falling and the Marcos couldn’t knock theirs down with any consistency.
“That opened everything up for us against their zone,” said Moore, who led Newman with 15 points, six rebounds and three blocks. “When we’ve got guys who can drive into the gaps and hit pull-up jumpers, that lets us inside guys go 1-on-1 down low instead of dealing with double- and triple-teams. We really execute better when we get more touches inside.”
On the other end, Newman’s sheer length in their standard 1-3-1 zone helped equalize the threat from Polo’s lightning-quick guards.
“We knew they were a good group, but we got our hands up and forced them to play over top of us,” McGinn said. “We covered the floor with our taller defenders, and it helped us overcome their quickness when they got into the gaps.”
After scoring the final five points of the second quarter, Newman scored 12 of the first 18 points of the third to open a 40-26 lead. While that would be the Comets’ biggest lead, the Marcos could get no closer than seven points the rest of the way; they got there twice in the final 1:42 on a 3-pointer by Brady Bushman and Dollmeyer’s final bucket in the post.
“They hit more of their outside shots, played smarter and executed better,” Polo coach Matt Messer said. “We were patient against their trap in the second half, got AJ some touches inside without three guys all over him, but we made too any mistakes … and they took advantage of it.”
Freshman Brad Cavanaugh hit all five shots and had 13 points, two assists and two steals for Polo, while Austin Reeder finished with six points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals. Brian Cavanaugh chipped in seven points and three assists.
McCarty finished with seven points and four rebounds for Newman, while Lucas Terveer stuffed the stat sheet with four points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals. Nate Terveer added six points, three rebounds and two steals.
Rock Falls Shootout
Newman 58, Polo 50
Star of the game: AJ Dollmeyer, Polo, 19 points. 7 rebounds, 3 blocks
Key performers: Kyle Moore, Newman, 15 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks; Lucas Terveer, Newman, 4 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals; Brad Cavanaugh, Polo, 13 points, 2 steals, 2 assists; Austin Reeder, Polo, 6 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals
Up next: Bureau Valley at Newman, 7:30 Tuesday; Polo at AFC, 7:30 Tuesday