East Newton boys down Sapulpa to take fifth in holiday classic

·3 min read

Dec. 30—NEOSHO, Mo. — Talk about making the free throws count.

Clinging to just a 53-51 lead entering the fourth quarter, the East Newton boys basketball team scored 16 of its 18 points from the charity stripe to secure a 71-63 victory over Sapulpa (Okla.) to take fifth place on Wednesday morning in the Gold bracket of the Neosho Holiday Classic at Neosho High School.

As the only local team in the Gold bracket, Patriots finished play in the tourney 2-1. The triumph vaulted East Newton's record to 4-5.

"We wanted to get into the Gold bracket," East Newton coach Kyle Fields said. "Everything is about leading up to the end of the year and trying to be the best team we can possibly be by district time. We thought it was more of a Big 8 tournament in the Black, but the Gold was where we thought we could get better."

And East Newton seemed to show shades of what made them so successful during last year's state tournament run:

Grit and toughness.

After falling in a 21-8 hole early on to Sapulpa, the Patriots fought back with a 10-0 run to close out the first period. In fact, a trey from Kolt Walters punctuated the torrid run to make the game 21-18.

East Newton took control of the ballgame in the second quarter. The Patriots grabbed a 29-27 lead following a driving layup in the lane from Gabe Bergen with 3:50 to play in the first half.

The Patriots' advantage ballooned to 35-30 when Marshall Renner hit a jumper with 42 ticks left, but Sapulpa's CJ Hobbs connected from deep to slice the deficit to 35-33 just before halftime.

Both teams traded scores to 53-51 in the third stanza, but Braxton Wolfe started East Newton's barrage from the foul line with a pair of freebies to give the Patriots a 55-51 lead to open play in the fourth quarter.

Sapulpa responded with a 11-7 run to knot the score at 62 after Jamar Durant knocked down a pair of free throws with 1:52 to go.

And that's when East Newton took back momentum of the game, sealing it with a 9-1 run with all of the points coming off free throws.

"I thought we showed a lot of guts," Fields said. "A lot of effort and a lot of grit. We got some big defensive stops. We took some big charges and got some big rebounds. Really, it came down to how well we played at the end of quarters, halves and at the end of the game. I thought we played pretty tough in those situations."

In total, the Patriots went 29 of 39 from the line while out-rebounding Sapulpa 39-24.

Kelton Sorrell scored a team-high 16 points for East Newton. Bergen capped a big tournament performance with 15 points, seven rebounds, two assists and one key block late in the fourth quarter.

"Gabe has so much toughness," Fields said. "He is a really important kid to this program and this team. We all feed off his grit. He does so many hard things whether it is getting a defensive stop or a block there late that was huge. He takes charges and scores for us. He does many things and he is that constant leader for us. We lean on him and he has broad shoulders."

Robert McFarland added 12 points for the Patriots, with 10 of those tallies coming from the line. Renner and Wolfe chipped in 10 points apiece for East Newton.

The Patriots host Reeds Spring at 5 p.m. on Jan. 7.

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