Moving forward from the foul-line
NEWELL - Fifty two times on Thursday night the two teams of St. Mary's and Newell-Fonda went to the foul line. Forty seven of those times the ball went in.
Newell-Fonda survived the District Tournament foul-fest with a 87-72 win, but fans and coaches alike were left wondering how the game wasn't more lopsided considering the number of fouls that were called.
"This is something that we have to adjust to, and it's not like they were just calling the fouls on us, they were being called on both sides," said Shad Coppock, head coach for Newell-Fonda who was cited for his own foul earlier in the game. "At half I told my boys that this is how they are calling the game and we have to adjust to it. I think in the end we did a better job of adjusting than St. Mary's."
The foul trouble began right away for both teams. Seconds after the opening tip-off senior Adam Mullen of the Mustangs was called for a foul on the Mustangs side of the court. From there St. Mary's took the ball and didn't stop for most of the first quarter.
After jetting out to a 7-1 lead in the early part of the game the Panthers started to push their defense a little more, while also finding ways to break the press by Newell-Fonda. The defense worked as St. Mary's continually got the Mustangs in positions that they didn't want to be in and hampered by many early mistakes.
Down by seven early in the game to one of their fiercest opponents, Newell-Fonda knew they had to respond quick. Especially since they were playing at home in the Newell Corral for the final time this season.
They were able to answer with a pair of Brady Dicks shots that were as precise as a surgeon's knife. At the same time St. Mary's was struggling to win the size battle under their rim for rebounds.
After the first eight minutes of play, the St. Mary's lead was gone and Newell-Fonda took a 20-16 advantage with them into the second.
Again though the fouls started early for Newell-Fonda and Mullen was benched for the rest of the quarter after receiving his third foul in just 10 minutes of play. Without the forward on defense the Panthers clawed at the post.
Eventually their claw marks drew blood and the Panthers were back in control of the game. Then though, the ugly head of fouls focused in on the Panthers and started to make them lose some big, experienced players.
First Josh Demers went out with three first half fouls, then junior and leading scorer, up to that point, Eric Broich. Finally Aaron Miller was also called with a third foul before half.
That posed a problem for the Panthers who spent most of the season playing only seven or eight players deep.
Newell-Fonda took control of the ball to finish out the bottom half of the second quarter and found a eight point lead at half time.
A back and fourth third quarter again saw the Panthers score early, however this time they did not regain the lead as they had in the previous two quarters. It also saw a change in defense for the Mustangs.
"It's no secret that we like to play man to man," Coppock said. "Sometimes though it doesn't work and tonight we did a lot better when we played zone defense against them."
Switching the defense by Newell-Fonda also gave the Mustangs something else that helped them out, fouls on two more players by St. Mary's.
Both Broich and Josh had limited playing time in the third after receiving their fourth foul. Newell-Fonda too had trouble with fouls with three of their players getting three or more by the time the third ended.
Going into the fourth the Mustangs led by six, but St. Mary's was nearly crippled on both sides of the ball. Defensively they had to play conservatively after Miller, the lone tall presence inside for the Panthers, picked up his fourth foul. Offensively the Panthers took a variety of long shots, afraid to go inside and picking up more fouls.
Newell-Fonda thrived off the conservative plays of St. Mary's and padded their lead in the final eight minutes to advance to the next round.