ROCK FALLS – Newman opened the second quarter of Wednesday’s Class 2A Rock Falls Regional semifinal at Tabor Gym facing a four-point deficit.
The second quarter eliminated that, as the Comets went on an extended run to beat Erie-Prophetstown 62-27.
“It’s just our defense [sparking that run]. It’s always our defense,” Newman senior center Devon House said. “We get it going in our 1-3-1 [zone]. We knock down shots and just keep playing our offense.”
Trailing 11-7 after one, Newman got within a point early in the second on a Marcus Williams three-point play. On the Comets’ next trip down the floor, Jake Ackman drained a 3-pointer to give Newman the lead.
That was the start of what would become a 23-0 run, with Williams, House, Ackman, Andrew Velasquez, Connor McBride and Brett Newman all contributing baskets.
“We picked up the intensity,” Williams said. “We hadn’t played a game in a very long time, and in that second quarter we definitely knocked some of that rust off and just kept the momentum going.”
Erie-Prophetstown had taken the 11-7 lead midway through the first when Jaime Miner found a cutting Bryce Rosenow for a basket.
But from there, the Panthers offense went cold.
Newman’s defense came up with stops on the next 23 Panthers possessions, creating 10 turnovers and holding EP to 0-for-15 shooting.
“I thought to start the game, Erie had a really good plan and got open shots,” Newman coach Ray Sharp said. “I thought they played harder than we did to start the game, so you have to give them a lot of credit for that. And then, we stepped up the level of intensity on our defense, started making them turn the ball over. Once they turned it over, that led to easy points for us.”
Erie-Prophetstown turned the ball over eight times in the second quarter alone, leading to 11 Comets points off turnovers.
While it was Newman’s defense stepping up in the second quarter, it had been Erie-Prophetstown showing off its defense in the first. EP went on a 7-0 run with a 3-pointer from Dawson Haggard, a spin move for a basket in the paint from Rosenow and a Rosenow layup, while getting stops on the last 10 Newman possessions of the first quarter, including forcing the Comets into five turnovers.
“The entire first quarter, I was really excited about it,” Panthers coach Ryan Winkler said. “We controlled the tempo. I thought we got some really good shots. They’re just so good, and [Newman] hadn’t played in so long, it was going to take some time to get their legs. I thought we moved the ball around really well. We missed two or three point-blank layups in that stretch that would have helped us.”
Haggard scored nine points to lead EP, including the team’s first seven points of the game. He also hit the jumper in the lane with 54 seconds left in the second quarter to stop Newman’s long run.
“He knocked down some shots early, and that’s what we were hoping he would be able to draw them out and then hopefully be able to establish Clayton [Johnson] inside,” Winkler said. “Unfortunately, we made one basket in the second quarter, which allowed them to get a lot of momentum, and then they were able to sink down on Clayton, which is obviously one of our main guys we go to. I think they did a good job on Bryce, too.”
In the battle of the big men between the 6-foot-8 House and the 6-8 Johnson, both came away with seven rebounds. House scored 15 points, extending Johnson out beyond the arc in EP’s man-to-man defense as he twice knocked down 3s.
“[Johnson was] just being big in the lane, making me take tough shots,” House said. “He’s a tall and lengthy guy.”
Johnson was held scoreless until the third quarter, when he hit a basket in the lane off an assist from Miner and hit a jumper off an assist from Rosenow moments later to cut the deficit to 32-19. He finished with six points.
Newman (26-5) answered with baskets on its next four possessions, three of those from House, with House feeding Velasquez for a 3-pointer on the other.
Newman hit 8 of 18 3-pointers in the game, with Ackman knocking down three of them and House hitting both of his off assists from Velasquez.
Erie-Prophetstown (8-20) shot 12-for-45 from the field and 1-for-19 from 3-point range.
1A Rock Falls Regional semifinal
Newman 62, Erie-Prophetstown 27
Star of the game: Marcus Williams, Newman, 18 points, 4 rebounds
Key performers: Devon House, Newman, 15 points, 7 rebounds; Dawson Haggard, Erie-Prophetstown, 9 points; Clayton Johnson, Erie-Prophetstown, 6 points, 7 rebounds; Jake Ackman, Newman, 9 points