The Newton High School girls’ basketball team learned a valuable lesson about overlooking opponents.

The Newton High School girls’ basketball team learned a valuable lesson about overlooking opponents.

The Railers let a 10-point lead against winless Derby slip away in the second half, even briefly trailing the Panthers by a point, before pulling away for a 44-38 win Thursday in Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division I play in Derby.

“There’s no question we weren’t ready to play,” Newton coach Randy Jordan said. “Some, not all, were not ready to play. Maddie Pendry had her head in the game tonight. That three she took after the time out (trailing by one in the fourth quarter) was huge. I knew they would try to cover Kate (Lehman), so I told them to try, and get Maddie the ball. She took the shot and it was right on.”

The bright spot is the Railers improve to 17-2 overall, 10-1 in AV-CTL I play, clinching a tie for the division title. It’s the first title for the Railer girls since the 2006-07 season and the first title for the school since moving up to AV-CTL Division I in the fall.

“It’s a league title, and that’s a good thing,” Jordan said. “(Division I) is tough. We still have to learn not to overlook anybody. I thought we learned that against Valley Center, although we did play better tonight than we did at Valley Center.”

Newton’s defense had the Panthers under control in the first half, holding Derby to two points in the second half. The Railer offense briefly showed itself in the third quarter to build a 10-point lead, but Derby was able to start hitting — first from the outside, then from the inside and the free throw line — to get back in the game.

Pendry led the Railers with 16 points. Pendry also had five steals. Kate Lehman added 10 points with five blocked shots. Emily Hiebert scored eight points.

“We didn’t really play with a lot of emotion in the first half,” Pendry said. “We came out with a little more emotion in the second half. (Kennedy Long) hit a big three for them, but we just had to keep scoring and not let the score affect us.”

Long and Michaela Liebst each scored 12 points for Derby, 0-18 overall and 0-11 in AV-CTL I play. Long hit three 3-pointers in the second half. Liebst scored all of her points in the second half, including six of eight from the free throw line, drawing several fouls inside.

“(Liebst) she didn’t try to go straight up, but she went to the hole,” Jordan said. “I thought Abbie (Lehman) did a good job on her. She stayed down with hands straight up. We had to put Abbie on (Long) late in the game, after she hit that third three. Abbie did a good job on her.”

Newton jumped out 4-0, but Derby replied with an 8-1 run to end the quarter. Newton was two of 14 shooting in the first quarter.

Neither team scored again until Kate Lehman hit a pair of free throws with 4:58 remaining in the second quarter. Pendry followed with a trey to put Newton back in the lead. Newton held Derby to just two of four from the free throw line in the quarter to lead 15-10 at the half.

Newton was five of 24 shooting in the first half while Derby was four of 16. Newton didn’t help itself from the line, hitting just five of 12. Fouls were 10-5 against Derby in the first half.

Newton opened the third quarter with a 7-2 run. Liebst then hit five of six free throws to get Derby back within five. A Long trey got Derby within four with a minute remaining in the period. Kate Lehman finished the quarter with one of two free throws and a layup to put the Railers ahead 28-21.

After staying even with Newton early in the fourth quarter, Long hit a trey, followed by a pair of Shelby Smith free throws to get the Panthers within two with 3:48 in regulation. Kate Lehman broke the run with a pair of free throws 30 seconds later.

Derby had a short jumper by Liebst and a trey by Long to take the lead, 37-36, with 2:06 remaining in regulation. Newton took a time out and regained the lead on a Pendry trey.

After a Derby miss, Pendry was fouled on the rebound and hit one of two free throws. Avery Vogts then forced a tie up on the other end to give Newton the ball with 65 seconds left in regulation, but then missed a 3-point attempt.

“I was kind of nervous,” Pendry said. “We set up a play, so I knew I would be open. I just felt it, so I just shot it. I didn’t want to lose that game. I was trying to do what I could to get my teammates excited. Now we just have to win tomorrow. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll come out strong.”

Hannah Jimenez hit one of two free throws with 37.5 seconds left in regulation. Hiebert missed the front end of a one-and-bonus, but Kate Lehman got a block and Pendry was fouled, hitting both free throws.

Vogts hit two free throws with 6.7 seconds to preserve the win.

Newton hosts Maize at 6 p.m. today to end the regular season. A win, or a loss by Salina South to Derby would give the Railers the division title outright. Newton also is tied with McPherson and South for the first seed in next week’s sub-state tournament.

Newton beat Maize 36-34 in the first meeting in Maize.

“We had no emotions,” Jordan said. “For the magnitude of this game, and what it represented, we just had no emotions. Now, we have to have a short-term memory. We come back tonight, and if we play this flat tonight, it’s going to be a 25-point game at the half.”

NEWTON (17-2, 10-1 AV-CTL I) — Pendry 2 (2) 6-10 2, 16; Hiebert 4 0-1 2, 8; Garver 0 0-0 2, 0; A.Lehman 0 0-3 0, 0; Langley 0 0-0 1, 0; Cochran 0 0-0 0, 0; Scott 3 0-3 3, 6; Vogts 1 2-2 1, 4; K.Lehman 2 6-10 4, 10; Folkerts 0 0-0 1, 0; TOTAS 12 (2) 14-29 16, 44.

DERBY (0-18, 0-11 AV-CTL I) — Jimenez 0 1-2 3, 1; Long 0 (3) 2-2 1, 12; Smith 1 2-2 2, 4; Vorderstrasse 0 0-0 1, 0; Bowens 1 2-4 5, 4; Burke 0 0-0 2, 0; Liebst 3 6-8 2, 12; Carbonell 3 0-0 5, 6; TOTALS 8 (3) 13-18 21, 38.

Newton 5 10 13 16 —44

Derby 8 2 11 17 —38