By Craig Beilfuss

NEWAYGO—The sixth-ranked Newaygo Lions struggled offensively in the first half against Reed City.

However, a strong second half on the defensive end helped the Lions post a 40-24 league victory over the Coyotes on Wednesday. The Lions are now 18-1 overall, 13-0 in the CSAA-Gold.

The Lions are ranked in Division 2 in the most recent Associated Press rankings.

Newaygo led from start to finish, but it was anything but a cakewalk for the Lions, especially in the first half.

Newaygo jumped out to a 7-0 lead with 6:03 remaining in the first quarter before Reed City got on the board. By quarter’s end, the Lions led 13-9.

The Coyotes turned in a solid second quarter and pulled to within 19-17 at the half.

Quite the contrast from the first meeting when the Lions had a commanding 23-6 halftime lead.

The only players to find the scoring column in the first half on Wednesday were seniors, Jaxi Long, Emmerson Goodin and Kayla Fisk. The trio was playing in their final home game and made the most of it by scoring 37 of the team’s 40 points.

Reed City out hustled us a bit in the first half and we were sloppy with the basketball,” Newaygo coach Nate Thomasma said.

Thomasma and Newaygo rode the offensive back of Goodin in the third period as she scored eight of the Lions 10 points and the Lions limited the Coyotes to just one bucket to extend their lead to 29-19 entering the fourth quarter.

The Reed City offensive woes continued during the final 8 minutes as Newaygo held a 11-5 scoring advantage to secure the 16-point victory.

Goodin led the Lions with 16 points, 12 rebounds and seven steals. Fisk chipped in 13 points to go along with four steals. Jaxi Long had eight points, four rebounds and four steals.

“Tough win for us tonight,” said Thomasma, the seventh-year coach.

The second half was a different story,” Thomasma said. “We took care of the ball and didn’t give them any easy buckets.  I thought Emmerson really took over in the third quarter and sparked us a bit.  We played really well defensively the whole game and that really kept us in it.”

They (the seniors) will go out having not lost a home game in over 2 years which is a tremendous accomplishment,” Thomasma said. “These girls are not only great players and leaders, but great people. Very smart and also mentally and physically tough. Hopefully we can keep getting better as districts approach next week.”  

Newaygo improves to 18-1 overall and is 13-0 in the CSAA-Gold. The Lions conclude the regular season on Friday when the travel to Chippewa Hills to take on the Warriors.

Reed City drops to 9-10 overall and 8-5 in conference play and will host Fremont on Friday evening.