The Newton-Conover Red Devils accomplished something no other Catawba County team has in the past five years. They defeated the Hickory Red Tornadoes in a girls basketball game. It is Hickory’s first loss to a Catawba County team since 2005.
“Obviously this is a huge game for both teams,” Newton-Conover head coach Jonathan Tharpe said. “Both teams are two of the best in the western part of the state in 2A and 3A. It’s just a big rivalry and just a lot of passion to win the game on both sides.”
The Red Devils beat the Red Tornadoes 59-49 at Newton-Conover after losing all three games in the 2009-10 season to Hickory. Last season, the Red Tornadoes won the regular-season games by two and five points and won the Catawba Valley Classic final by 16. The two teams play again Dec. 10 at Hickory.
Tuesday’s game at Newton-Conover — like all three last season — was a game of runs. The Red Devils went on a 10-2 run at the start of the third quarter for a 38-28 lead. Hickory later went on a 13-6 run and cut its deficit to 44-41 with 5 minutes 15 seconds left in the ball game.
Newton-Conover responded with an 12-2 run and held Hickory scoreless the next four minutes of the game for a 56-43 lead. Newton-Conover’s Shynese Whitener was the closer in the game scoring nine points in the fourth quarter, and she had a game-high 25. Red Devil Kadesha Gibbs scored 15.
“Coach told us the were going to have some runs and we were going to have some runs and to just keep our composure,” Whitener said. “I was just ready to play. I’ve been focusing on this game since last night, and I was just ready.”
Hickory coach Barbara Helms said after the game it was back and forth and her team made a lot of uncharacteristic turnovers. The Red Tornadoes struggled early to hold on to the ball turning it over on five of their first seven possessions. Hickory ended the game with 28 turnovers, and Newton-Conover had 23.
“We didn’t do a very good job of handling the ball,” Helms said. “We should have done a better job with the ball, better job with turnovers, and that is not typical of us. Newton-Conover played hard and that was a big difference.”
Three Red Tornadoes scored in double figures in Tuesday’s loss. Jada Payne led Hickory with 16 points, Shannon Brown scored 12, and Hillary Sigmon finished with 10.