STERLING – The Newman Comets did manage to find high gear on offense during Friday night's Class 2A Newman Regional championship game against the Riverdale Rams.
Unfortunately, it wasn't until the fourth quarter, when they already trailed by 17 points. The end result was a 50-42 Riverdale victory, sending the Rams to Monday's Class 2A Somonauk Sectional semifinal against Byron.
"Their shots were falling, and we couldn't get ours to go down," Newman senior Jaimie Hurd said. "We finally got things going there in the fourth quarter, but they just had too big a lead and we ran out of time."
Riverdale (24-2) scored the game's first 11 points, but when all-time scoring leader Hannah Nimrick went to the bench with her second foul late in the first quarter, the Comets rallied. Newman (15-12) cut the deficit to four (12-8) by the end of the opening period, and trailed by five with 31 seconds left in the first half.
But Jess Corson hit a shot with 4.2 seconds left in the half, giving the Rams all the momentum heading into the locker room.
"That last shot of the half killed us," Newman coach Jay Howell said. "We were right there in it, then they score right before the buzzer and it deflated us a little bit."
Riverdale built a 39-22 lead with a 12-2 run to end the third quarter and start the fourth, even with the Comets putting the clamps on Nimrick. Corson, Lauren Claus and Elle May all scored during the spurt.
"We worked as a team on both ends," Riverdale junior Sydney Mericle said. "We moved our feet and helped each other out on defense, and we kept working the ball around on offense. We know when they take away one person, we've got other girls who can score."
Newman wasn't finished, though, as Jaimie Hurd hit a 3-pointer before Mary Alice Oswalt hit a 2 and two free throws to get the Comets within 10 (39-29). After Riverdale pushed its lead back to 43-29, Rachel Hageman nailed a 3 and Oswalt hit a runout layup.
But the Rams sank their free throws down the stretch, and Oswalt's 3 with 11.3 seconds remaining still left Newman down by eight. Hannah Erickson's putback at the buzzer followed two Nimrick free throws and provided the final margin.
"I thought we played really good defense, and got a lot of good looks," Newman sophomore Aubree Schmitt said, "but it seemed like they were making shots and they weren't going in for us. We wanted to hold Nimrick to single digits, and we did, but they're a well-rounded team; everyone can hurt you on offense, so it's really hard to shut them down."
Nimrick finished with nine points, 10 rebounds and two blocks, but May (12 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals), Mericle (12 points, 7 rebounds) and the rest of the Rams picked up the slack. Corson added nine points, three steals and two blocks, and Claus chipped in eight points and four steals.
"We had good mental focus tonight, and we were able to play a lot more relaxed because we got the lead right away," May said. "Our goal every game is to get the lead and then maintain it, and our defense was a big part of that tonight."
Oswalt led Newman with 17 points, while Hageman added seven points and seven rebounds. Hurd had six points and five steals, and Schmitt finished with five points, eight rebounds and five assists.
"We played our hearts out for a full four quarters, and there's nothing more we can ask for than that," Hurd said. "We didn't want to have any regrets tonight, especially us seniors, and I thought we gave really good effort to make sure we didn't."
Class 2A Newman Regional final
Riverdale 50, Newman 42
Star of the game: Elle May, Riverdale, 12 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals
Key performers: Sydney Mericle, Riverdale, 12 points, 7 rebounds; Hannah Nimrick, Riverdale, 9 points, 10 rebounds; Mary Alice Oswalt, Newman, 17 points; Aubree Schmitt, Newman, 5 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists
Up next: Class 2A Somonauk Sectional semifinal, Riverdale vs. Byron, 7:30 p.m. Monday