When the Little Ten Conference boys basketball tournament was seeded last week, two teams – Indian Creek and Newark – were still undefeated in conference play.
That changed Friday night, when the teams met for the first and possibly only time at Newark. Before the game, Newark coach Rick Tollefson was accepting of the Norsemen being seeded second, and Indian Creek first, in the tournament.
“Indian Creek was the favorite going into the season, and being undefeated in conference, they deserve the one seed,” Tollefson said. “I think the fact that we struggled in a few of our conference wins probably didn’t help us.”
A 71-28 win over Kirkland-Hiawatha on Jan. 17 moved Newark to 5-0 in the conference and 13-7 overall. It was Newark’s second straight lopsided win in the conference, but its two previous conference games were one-point wins over Serena and Leland-Earlville.
Before Friday, Newark was averaging 54.8 points a game overall, but their average dropped to 48.0 in losses. Jack Clausel entered Friday as both its leading scorer (17.1 PPG) and rebounder (7.8 a game).
“One problem is our inability to score at times and once our scoring goes a bit south, we tend to let that affect the rest of our game,” Tollefson said. “Hopefully we will finish out the season strong and put some things together.”
Newark has yet to play its quarterfinal opponent, seventh-seeded LaMoille-Ohio. The two teams were supposed to play Tuesday at Newark, but the game was postponed until Feb. 20 because of inclement weather.
“I know they have some kids back from last year and should be decent,” Tollefson said of LaMoille-Ohio. “We can absolutely take nothing for granted. We have to play well, as we have been a bit inconsistent this year.”
In the semifinals, the Norsemen will play either third-seeded Paw Paw, which they have yet to play, or sixth-seeded and two-time defending champion Hinckley-Big Rock, which they have defeated twice by at least 34 points. Tollefson thinks a potential championship match-up with Indian Creek would be difficult.
“They are big inside, 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-4,” Tollefson said. “They are a veteran team and certainly a team we will have to play very well to beat.”