HINCKLEY – Olivia Turner drained a 3-pointer right out of the half, and the Indian Creek girls basketball team cut the Newark lead – which had peaked at 12 at that point – down to six.
But the No. 1 Norseman responded with seven straight as part of a dominant third quarter, knocking off the No. 4 Timberwolves, 60-31, in the semifinals of the Little 10 Conference tournament on Thursday.
The Norsemen (17-4) outscored the Timberwolves (6-13) 20-9 in the third and 31-11 in the second half, closing the game on a 19-2 run.
"I don't think we were executing what we were working on in practice the day before," Muchmore said. "Ball fakes, trying to get the ball into the post. But we hung in there, had a nice little run, got back into the game. Then the just pulled away. We started getting a little tired. Great effort, I don't think great execution."
Maggie Scott exploded early for the Norsemen, scoring seven points as part of an early 12-0 run that staked Newark to a 14-2 lead. The Timberwolves battled back in the second quarter, cutting the lead to 24-20 with 1:31 left after a bucket by Katie Cassidy.
"Scott was on fire hitting 3s," Muchmore said of the Newark sophomore, who hit four in the game and finished with a game-high 16 points. "She's tough. I think the biggest difference was her ability to handle the ball and create while we struggle with that."
Brooke Kala scored the last five of the half for Newark to push the lead back to nine at the break.
Indian Creek committed 18 turnovers in the game, with nine coming in the third quarter – leading to 12 points by Newark.
"We had a little bit of a slow start but our third quarter was huge," Newark coach Barb Scott said. "I thought the girls came out with great intensity after halftime. ... It showed a lot of desire out of our girls. They want to be in the championship pretty bad. To come out and do what we did, it was big."
Muchmore said he expects his team to bounce back in the third-place game against Earlville-Leland. Indian Creek lost at Earlville, 49-40, earlier this month.
"We'll come back," Muchmore said. "This is a great group of girls. They work hard, they listen. They try hard to do everything, even if we don't always accomplish that. They're a fun group to coach and we're getting better as the year has gone along. That's what has made it fun."
By the numbers: Kala had 15 off the bench for the Norsemen to go with three steals. Scott also had 11 rebounds, while Evie Martin had 10 points and eight rebounds. Turner finished with 10 for the Timberwolves and Morgan Johnson had a game-high nine rebounds. Sarah Diehl had three blocks for IC.
Beyond the stats: Newark will play Serena for the second year straight and fifth time in seventh years. Newark has won all four. The last time neither Newark nor Serena played in the championship game was in 2001, when Hinckley-Big Rock beat Earlville.
They said it: "Our goal is to get it for our seniors," Scott said. "We're going to give it a good fight."
Up next: The Norsemen and Huskers play at 8 p.m. Friday, while the Timberwolves face Earlville-Leland at 6:30 p.m. Both games are at Hinckley-Big Rock.