McNichols’ big half paces Newton in championshipBy ROBBIE ROBERTSON,
When the Philadelphia Tornadoes decided to try and shut down Division 4-2A MVP Nia McCalphia, first-year Newton coach Perry Fletcher turned to Myja McNichols.
Nichols responded in the second half with 13 straight points as the Lady Tigers beat Philadelphia 40-29 to take the Division 4-2A Tournament championship on Friday night at Union High School.
The Lady Tigers improve to 22-4 on the season and add a tournament championship to their resume after going undefeated in 4-2A play in the regular season. The Lady Tigers will play Strayhorn (7-12) on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at either Newton High or East Central due to problems at the Newton High School gym.
Despite a rich basketball tradition, it's been a while since the Newton Lady Tigers have won a division basketball championship.
Fletcher said his team was unusually nervous before the game.
"Before the game, all of my juniors looked at me and told me they were nervous," Fletcher said. "I realized that Newton has won a whole lot in the past, they really hadn't won the division in a while because Heidelberg has been so strong. This was a big stage for these girls. I told them if they want to perform on the stage they want to get to, they have to perform on this stage. I though the first half might have been a little big for them and that's to be expected when you have a young group."
It wasn't easy for the Lady Tigers, who trailed 6-4 midway through the first period before McKinley Ware hit a pair of 3-pointers to give Newton a 12-8 lead at the end of the first period. The Lady Tigers struggled from the field in the second period and led 21-11 at the half.
"It's hard to beat a team three times in a season," Fletcher said. "We just played them last week and coach (Jason) Broom did a great job of making adjustments. They had us rattled early and the shots weren't falling. We told them to stay true to the defensive principles. I thought we gutted it out." But the Lady Tigers came out of the half and turned to McNichols, a junior forward who scored 10 straight points and gave the Lady Tigers a 31-18 lead at the end of the third.
"Myja McNichols is a very special player," Fletcher said. "The only thing she is lacking is a motor. If she had a motor, she would be one of the top players in our area. I challenged her at halftime. They played a box and one on Nia (McCalphia) in the first half and I told Myja that this was the game she was going to have to step up. She answered it and played really well in the third quarter and gave us a cushion."
From there, the Lady Tigers led by as many as 16 points and cruised to the 11-point win.
McNichols led Newton with 17 points while Ware had 10 points.
Newton girls 60, Scott Central 28
The Lady Tigers had little trouble in their semifinal match with Scott Central.
Newton led 20-5 at the end of the first period and then outscored the Lady Rebels 19-7 in the second period to take a 39-12 advantage at the half.
The Lady Tigers then outscored Scott Central 14-6 in the third period to lead 53-18 heading to the fourth.
Zia Shields had a big game with 19 points while Ja'Leah Hickmon had 10 points. McKinley Ware and Myja McNichols each chipped in nine points apiece.