The Newton High School girls’ basketball team has been in a grind in the past three weeks. The Railers have played seven straight games against teams ranked in the state coaches polls, finishing that stretch 5-2 after a 39-26 defensive battle against fourth-ranked (Class 5A) Salina South Tuesday at Ravenscroft Gym. The Railer win puts both teams at 12-3 overall and 6-2 in Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division I play. Both teams are two games behind Maize with four games remaining. The two teams are tied atop the eight-team sub-state pool, with the top two teams ensured of home court advantage in the sub-state tournament. The sixth-ranked Railers avenge a 44-34 loss to South earlier in the season. “That’s a credit to those girls,” Newton coach Randy Jordan said. “They did it together. They trusted each other. They did it as a team. ... Because of this stretch, we haven’t had a lot of time to prepare for any of them. For these girls to take a game plan and adjust it to someone else’s game plan, someone else’s personnel, someone else’s defenses, that is amazing to me.” Kelsi Langley led the Railers with 11 points, scoring nine in the fourth quarter. Langley was six of six from the line in the fourth quarter. Hannah Carlgren added 10 points. “I like handling the ball,” Langley said. “We’ve been trying to drive more, instead of just passing the ball around the outside.” Megan Holloway scored 10 points for South. “The way we guarded Megan Holloway tonight was a team effort,” Jordan said. “We did a great job of keeping her out of the lane. The girls did a great job of helping Emily (Hiebert) on her. They tried going to (Jana Mitchell), but Abbie (Lehman) did a good job on her. Then they started going away from (Mitchell) and taking long shots.” South spent most of the game packed in a zone, keeping the tempo slow. Newton shot 50 percent through the first half and fourth quarter. “They did try and slow it down,” Jordan said. “That helped us because we guarded better in the half-court. We did it together. We had more people step up and make shots than they did. Hannah hit some big shots early that softened them off. Those are the kind of plays we needed to make. We started attacking the rim better. In the first half, we let them off the hook a little. We got in the one-and-one, but stopped attacking the rim. I told the girls, we needed to get fouled in the second half and shoot free throws.” Newton jumped out 7-0, allowing South just three points the entire quarter. Hiebert opened the second quarter with a Railer trey, followed by a Carlgren runner. Newton led by as many as 10 in the period, with chances to increase its lead. South cut it to nine at the end of the period, 17-8. Newton was seven of 14 shooting in the first half. South was two of 12. After just three turnovers the entire first half, Newton turned the ball over on its first two possessions of the third quarter, allowing a South basket. The Cougars drew as close as four. Lehman broke the run with a three-point play with 1:04 left in the period. McKenzie Hayes answered with a trey for South, getting the Cougars back within four, 22-18, at the end of the period. Newton opened the fourth quarter with a pair of Hiebert layups and a Langley trey, putting the Railers up by 11 with 6:16 remaining in regulation. Holloway hit South’s first basket of the fourth quarter, a trey with 3:16 in regulation. Newton came back with two Langley free throws 30 seconds later. Langley followed with two more free throws on Newton’s next possession. After a South layup, Newton put things away with free throws by Carlgren and Stahly. “I like hitting shots like that,” Langley said of her trey. “The crowd was in it tonight. There was a lot of adrenaline. Our intensity was better tonight. We played better defense.” Newton plays 7-8 Goddard Eisenhower at 6 p.m. Friday at Ravenscroft Gym. “We want to stay in the hunt for the league title and we want to control our destiny for the number one seed in sub-state,” Jordan said. “We took a step in that direction tonight. We have a lot of battles to go here. I don’t think we’re going to overlook anybody. (Eisenhower) plays in a tough league. I haven’t seen them on tape yet. I’m sure they’re better than their record. We just need to play our kind of game.”

SALINA SOUTH (12-3, 6-2 AV-CTL I) — Mitchell 1 2-2 4, 2; Hogan 0 0-0 0, 0; M.Holloway 1 (2) 2-2 5, 10; E.Holloway 0 0-0 2, 0; Webb 0 0-0 4, 0; Cook 3 0-0 3, 6; Huffman 0 0-0 1, 0; Hayes 0 (2) 0-0 1, 6; TOTALS 5 (4) 4-4 20, 26. NEWTON (12-3, 6-2 AV-CTL I) — Porter 0 0-0 2, 0; Anderson 0 0-2 1, 0; Stahly 0 (1) 2-2 0, 5; Hiebert 2 (1) 0-1 0, 7; Lehman 2 2-3 3, 6; Langley 1 (1) 6-6 1, 11; Carlgren 4 2-3 2, 10; TOTALS 9 (3) 12-17 9, 39. S.South 3 5 10 8 —26 Newton 7 10 5 17 —39