Newton-Conover's 2010 Catawba Valley Classic title defense started where it ended last season — with a victory over Fred T. Foard.
The Lady Red Devils used strong defense to defeat the Lady Tigers, 66-34, for the first time since their championship meeting at the Classic one year ago.
“I thought in the first half, we were still in our Christmas mode,” said N-C coach Ike Williams. “I think we overindulged in food and gifts. We talked about it at halftime and we stepped it up. I'm happy for a win.”
If steals were contagious on the basketball court, Newton-Conover had a full-blown epidemic — racking up 23 on defense, including six from Kadesha Gibbs and five each from Shynese Whitener and Dasia Tipps.
“I thought our man-to-man was pretty good tonight,” Williams said. “We started out slow in the first half. I asked them to step it up in the second half. We got in the passing lanes a little bit better and came out with three-straight steals. I'm pretty happy with the effort overall.”
Foard coach Brad Mangum said his team failed to finish when it had the ball.
“Tonight, we didn't execute as well as we should offensively,” he said. “When you play a team like Newton-Conover that is well-coached, a good team and you don't execute, things like this are going to happen.”
To go along with her six steals, Gibbs led the way for Newton-Conover with 20 points, including 11 in the opening quarter of play.
“Kadesha is our heart and soul,” Williams said. “She is a leader on this team. She makes us go. I can't say enough about her. She is a great person off of the court. She realizes this is her last Christmas tournament. They all really want it, and we're going after the title.”
Behind an early seven-point outburst by Gibbs, the Lady Red Devils jumped out to a 10-2 lead.
Foard closed the gap back to three, but Newton-Conover continued to force turnovers, including seven steals in the quarter. Whitener had three of those, and Gibbs added two more.
Just when it seemed like the Lady Tigers were closing the gap, another string of strong defensive plays led to Newton-Conover transition baskets. N-C led 30-19 at the break.
Sophomore Lanecia Williams provided an early spark for Newton-Conover, recording three straight steals to start the second half. She powered her way to eight points in the third quarter and a career-high 16 points in the game.
“I had a talk with Lanecia early in the day,” coach Williams said. “I told her she was capable of being a special player. The only thing that holds her back is herself. She has the ability.”
The duo of scoring by Kadesha Gibbs and Lanecia Williams, combined with the 23 steals amassed on defense, guided N-C to the second round of the Catawba Valley Classic.
After making it to the championship game last season, Foard falls to the consolation bracket against St. Stephens.
“We've got to rebound tomorrow,” Mangum said. “Both teams are great programs. We've just got to prepare ourselves mentally and come ready to play tomorrow.”
Newton-Conover meets Alexander Central today in the second round. The Cougars defeated St. Stephens in the Tuesday nightcap.
“I haven't' seen much of Alexander Central, but I hear they are playing really well,” coach Williams said. “We look forward to facing them.”