EARLVILLE — From the opening tip of the Earlville Class 1A Regional championship, not much went wrong for the sub-sectional No. 2-seeded Newark Lady Norsemen as they took on No. 3 seed and Little Ten Conference rival Serena.
In fact, all was much more than right for Newark, as it produced one of its finest games of the season from start to finish, bolting off to a 16-point lead after one quarter and never looking back to claim a dominating, 65-41 victory Friday evening.
The Lady Norsemen made 26 of 42 (62%) from the floor and a sweltering 8 of 15 (53%) beyond 3-point range to help earn their fourth consecutive regional championship and 12th in school history.
"This game had to be one of the best we've played overall this year, where we came out on fire setting the tone right away and never saw a letdown from there," said Newark coach Barb Scott.
"I thought our energy both offensively and defensively was impressive. We ran the floor incredibly well and kept the momentum going throughout the game. We were so balanced in our attack, and that's what winning basketball is all about.
"I'm so thrilled of what we've accomplished now with four straight regional championships."
Newark (24-9) received a game-high 25 points from senior J.J. Mitchell, including 21 in the second half. Senior point guard Meggie Scott followed with a double-double of 15 points and 15 assists, while sophomore Annika Myre added 14 points, including four 3-pointers in the first half. Sophomore Kellie Snyder chipped in with six points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
"They came out guns blazing, and we kind of were shellshocked, quite frankly, as a result of their very impressive start to the ballgame," said Serena coach Jim Jobst. "They were making everything they put up tonight, and we just couldn't seem to catch our breath.
"But I'm very proud of our girls despite the loss against a very good basketball team. We've got a lot to look forward to in the years to come."
Meggie Scott started out with a left wing 3-ball to open the scoring 10 seconds in before Myre began to assert herself from long range. The sophomore standout nailed left-wing triples at 5:55, 4:30 and 2:55 from almost the exact same place on the floor to help stake the Lady Norsemen to a 22-6 lead after one period.
"I think I was warmed up from the 3-point competition before the game, even though I didn't do so well," Myre said. "But once the game started I got hot, and I'd like to think I was saving those 3s for what was most important."
Serena actually won the second quarter, outscoring Newark 14-12 to cut the gap to 34-20 at halftime.
Mitchell, however, went wild in the second half, scoring 10 points in the third quarter including a right-wing trey at 6:55 and a top-of-the-key triple at 0:50 that helped push her team's lead to 50-33 with eight minutes left to contest.
"Meggie was just finding me with passes where I was open for great looks," Mitchell said. "In that third quarter, I just felt so confident, and I just kind of took it from there."
Mitchell would add 11 more tallies in the final frame, while Meggie Scott would drop in five as the Lady Norsemen advanced to Monday evening's Class 1A sectional semifinal against Gardner-South Wilmington that will take place at 7:30 p.m. at Putnam County High School.
Newark defeated GSW 62-47 on Feb. 3.
"Tonight was such a great overall team win for us, and now we've won our fourth straight regional," Meggie Scott said. "But our goal this year is to win a sectional and hopefully more.
"After tonight I don't think there's any question we're ready to move on and take it to another level."