PLANO – Whatever happens between now and Monday, the Newark Norsemen will finish higher in the 51st annual Plano Christmas Classic than their 13th seed.
“We’re glad that we won, but we’re not really satisfied. We want to finish it,” freshman Newark guard Will Clausel said after Thursday’s 57-50 win over No. 4 Kaneland. “We really wanna win this. We think we can. From fans’ perspective, I guess, they could say it’s a success, but we’re not really thinking it’s a success yet.”
Down 20-15 halfway through the second quarter, the Norsemen made 3-pointers from Jack Clausel, Will Clausel and Steve McGrath on successive possessions to nearly erase the Knights’ lead. It disappeared completely during a 6-0 run late in the quarter, with Kaneland needing a late Drew David three to go into halftime down just 31-29.
“I just thought we played with a lot of composure,” Newark coach Rick Tollefson said. “A lot of pressure for young kids [when] we got down six, seven points.”
Kaneland’s John Pruett made the first basket of the third quarter, and Tyler Carlson the last. In between, the Knights were limited to two Carlson free throws as the Norsemen outscored them 12-2. Jack Clausel outscored Kaneland by himself, 8-6, during the quarter.
The Norse lead remained eight points or greater from there until the final minute, when turnovers on three straight possessions caused Newark’s lead to whittle to four points before it righted the ship.
“We gotta start handling pressure more. We got to have more guys ready to help and come to the ball,” Jack Clausel said. “It’ll come along. We haven’t faced that kind of pressure before, so we were gonna fold a little bit. We finally got it back together, made our free throws.”
Jack Clausel had game highs in points with 19 and rebounds with eight for Newark. Will Clausel distributed seven assists to go with his 16 points.