The clincher: Lady Red Devils defeat West Caldwell, win second straight CVAC championship

Two in a row.

Newton-Conover fought off an early game slump to blow open a big lead against West Caldwell on their way to their 13th conference win.

The victory gives the Lady Red Devils their second consecutive CVAC championship on Senior night.

"This is a huge accomplishment for this team," said N-C head coach Jonathan Tharpe. "These seniors have spent three years with me working on trying to be the best basketball players and teammates that they can. For us to win back-to-back conference championships is very special."

The Lady Red Devils (19-2, 13-1) used the emotions of the Senior night festivities to jump out to an early 13-4 lead after the first quarter.

However, the second quarter saw Newton-Conover fall into a lull offensively, as they made mistakes in transition. That opened up the door for the Lady Warriors (10-13, 7-7).

West Caldwell managed to cut the lead to five points at the midway point of the second quarter after a 3-pointer.

"I thought in the second quarter we did not capitalize on some transition buckets," Tharpe said. "That is something we continue to work on. Some games, we do a great job of that. Other games, we make a late decision or pass. We force shots that aren't there. We miss wide open lay ups we shouldn't. That is going to happen, but as long as they get back and hustle defensively."

Despite the hurried pace, Newton-Conover managed to keep pace with the Lady Warriors in the quarter. Shynese Whitener led the Lady Red Devils with eight points in the first half.

In the second half, the Lady Warriors tried to slow down Newton-Conover's fast-paced attack. They played a patient set offense and passed the ball around to each player.

"West Caldwell is has done a really good job of evolving offensively to spreading the floor and not panicking," Tharpe said. "They work the basketball to get the best shot they can. I wanted us to sit back in that half court and work really hard. There are going to be teams at the next level playoff-wise that have good enough guards and players to work the ball."

The Lady Warriors tactics wouldn't work though and by the middle of the third quarter, Newton-Conover was back to their old ways on offense. They were able to convert steals and rebounds into transition offense and points.

A big part of that defensive effort was post player Kadesha Gibbs, who had 12 rebounds and five blocks in the game against West Caldwell.

"Coach always tells us that our defense triggers our offense," Gibbs said. "I figure if I play really good defense, my offense will come to me. My defense is always my main focus. I love to block shots."

That enabled the Lady Red Devils to grow their nine-point halftime lead into a 15-point lead after the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, it was Whitener again that powered the Newton-Conover offensive attack. She scored six points in the quarter and 17 points in the game, as the Lady Red Devils earned the victory.

Senior Quazzy Tipps scored 13 points in her final home game and Gibbs finished with nine points.

Conference tournament games begin on Monday, as the Red Devils will be ranked as the top seed and host either Maiden or Bunker Hill. Tharpe says his team will regroup and then focus on their next opponent.

"We are going to rest," Tharpe said. "We aren't going to do anything until the game on Monday. We will get into our regular routine of shoot around and game planning. We will go out on Monday and do the best we can."