Defense leads Newton Falls past Jefferson

NEWTON FALLS – Going into halftime of Thursday night’s game against Jefferson, Newton Falls coach Mark Baker had nothing but praise for his team in the locker room.

The Tigers held the Falcons to three points and forced nine turnovers in the second quarter en route to a 50-22 rout in an All-American Conference, National Division matchup. He said his team showed desire in that quarter to bust the game open.

“I thought that we played pretty good defense in the first quarter,” Baker said. “We continued to really clamp down on the defensive end of the floor. It was an outstanding defensive effort. Hands up, getting the deflections – just doing all the things that don’t take talent to do. They all take desire and heart.”

Not only did the Newton Falls defense hold the Falcons (5-7, 1-4) to three points, but the Tigers (10-1, 5-0) used said defense to jump start the offense.

The Tigers recorded five steals in that quarter and turned them into eight fast-break points. Those fast-break points helped Newton Falls’ 14-0 run over a 7-minute span to start the quarter.

“Basically, we base our game off of defense,” Newton Falls’ Danielle King said. “So, if we can get steals on the defensive end, that sparks our offense, and that’s what happened (in the second quarter).”

One player who benefited from the change of pace was Brooke Barreca.

The junior forward scored 11 of her game-high 20 points in the second. She also played a role inside the paint, grabbing two offensive boards and draining them for two putback baskets.

“We thought that we had a little bit of an advantage with her in the transition game because she can get out and run a little bit,” Baker said. “As we try to play an up-tempo style, the kids did a really nice job looking for her in the open floor.

“It was good to see Brooke have a good night, that’s for sure.”

Barreca’s good night started with the guard play, especially that of King.

The senior point guard dished seven assists in the win. She found the open players, whether on the fast break or in the half-court set, and had her coach praising her leadership qualities after the game.

Barreca gave all credit for her prolific scoring night on King and the guards.

“I can’t do much of anything without my guards,” Barreca said. “My goal is to help my guards get as many assists as they can. We actually have this goal that one of us breaks the assist record, and I’ll try and break the points record.”

As for Jefferson, the Falcons kept a one-point deficit following the first quarter, leaving Jefferson coach Rod Holmes content with the defensive effort, but he couldn’t find too many good things to take from the game.

“We were playing good defense, but we weren’t scoring,” Holmes said. “In the second quarter, we started turning the ball over way too much, and (the Tigers) took advantage of it and ran the score to what it was.”

Both teams return to action Saturday, with Newton Falls hosting Springfield and Jefferson hosting Brookfield.