Sixth-ranked Mustangs grind down Railer girls

Mark Schnabel
The Kansan
Newton senior Lexi Valle-Ponds takes a jump shot during play Tuesday against Salina Central. Valle-Ponds led the Railers with seven points in a 54-19 loss to the state-ranked Mustangs.
Newton senior Marah Zenner takes a shot in traffic during play Tuesday against Salina Central. Newton hosts Derby Thursday.
Newton senior Maylee Edwards throws a pass during play Tuesday against Salina Central. Edwards got the start on senior night.
Salina Central freshman Tyler Vidricksen passes the ball against two Newton defenders. Central improved to 15-4 with a 54-19 win.
Salina Central junior Hampton Williams guards Newton sophomore Alexia Hernandez during play Tuesday in Newton.
Salina Central sophomore Mykayla Cunningham handles the ball during play Tuesday at Newton.

The schedule and inexperience for the Newton High School girls basketball team has been taking its toll on the Railers the past week.

Playing its third game in five days, the Railers fell to sixth-ranked (KBCA, Class 5A) Salina Central 54-19 on Tuesday in non-league play at Ravenscroft Gym.

“I didn’t think  our defensive intensity was great right away,” Central coach Chris Fear said. “Then we kind of ratcheted it up a little bit. We were able to get some steals, get in transition and speed them up a bit. That got us going a bit too.”

“We started out well, but started to taper off a bit,” Newton coach Tavis Leake said. “Once we start playing all four quarters, we’ll be a fun team to watch.”

The Railers started all five of their seniors, including three who are normally in back-up roles.

“They’re an important part of our program,” Leake said. “They work hard every single day to make us better. Some of those kids did some things tonight I haven’t seen before. They are fun to coach. I’m excited to see what the future holds for them.”

Chaliscia Samilton led Central with 13 points. Aubrie Kierscht scored 12 and Mykayla Cunningham scored 11.

“We had a really slow start, but did a great job of stepping up our defensive and offensive intensity,” said junior Landry Stewart, who Fear called the team’s spark plug. “We’re excited to go to sub-state and play at home. We just want to stay focused and play our game.”

Newton was led by senior Lexi Valle-Ponds with seven points.

“We had a lot of fight, be we let them go,” Valle-Ponds said. “We tried our best. That’s all we can do. It’s been a rough four years with four different coaches. I had to tough it out this year. We’ll see where we go from there.”

Central jumped out 7-0, but the Railers got within three late in the period, 9-6. Central got a pair of late baskets off Railer turnovers, including a 35 layup at the buzzer to lead 13-6.

Central extended its run by seven points in the second quarter, effectively putting the game away. A Marah Zenner jumper with five seconds left in the half cut Central’s lead to 27 at the half, 37-10.

Newton was outscored 12-2 in the third quarter setting up the 30-point running clock in the fourth. Newton won the final period 7-5.

Newton is 2-17 and ends the season at 6 p.m. Thursday at home against seventh-ranked (Class 6A) Derby, 14-4.

“That’s one we’re excited about,” Leake said. “Even though we play great teams, it makes us better. It’s adversity, but it makes us better. We’re trying to chip away. We know it’s a process, but the more we play those teams, the better we get.”

Central, 15-4, hosts 0-18 Arkansas City at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Central previously clinched the top seed in its sub-state.

“We’re excited and we want to finish the regular season out well on Thursday,” Fear said. “We’re going to have a chance to play at home. That’s why you want to win games in the regular season. We’re looking forward to the post season. We want to worry about us and play well Thursday night. I know they have been struggling. We have to concern ourselves with playing as well as we can.”

Mark Schnabel can be reached at mschnabel@thekansan.com

SALINA CENTRAL GIRLS 54, NEWTON 19

S.Central;13;24;12;5;—;54

Newton;6;4;2;7;—;19

SALINA CENTRAL (15-4) — Fischer 0 0-0 1, 0; Hall 0 (1) 0-0 0, 3; Stewart 1 1-2 1, 3; Vidricksen 0 (1) 1-2 0, 4; DeVoe 0 0-0 0, 0; O’Hara 0 0-0 1, 0; Cunningha, 3 (1) 2-2 0, 11; Polk-Darby 1 0-0 1, 2; Peckham 0 0-0 0, 0; Williams 1 0-0 1, 2; Kierscht 3 (2) 0-0 1, 6; Samilton 6 1-4 2, 13; Freeman 2 0-1 0, 4; TOTALS 17 (5) 5-11 8, 54.

NEWTON (2-17) — Valle-Ponds 2 3-7 3, 7; Zenner 1 0-0 1, 2; Merlini 0 0-0 0, 0; Loewen 1 1-2 0, 3; Antonowich 0 0-0 1, 0; Koontz 0 (1) 0-0 0, 3; Hendrickson 0 0-0 0, 0; Entz 1 0-0 4, 2; Edwards 0 0-0 1, 0; Hernandez 1 0-0 0, 2; Blaylock 0 0-0 1, 0; TOTALS 6 (1) 4-9 12, 19.