HINCKLEY – Jocelyn Mitchell did not score a point for the Newark girls basketball team Tuesday night.
But the sophomore had arguably the biggest moment of her young career in the waning seconds of the second Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock sectional semifinal.
Locked in a tie game with Kewanee Wethersfield, Mitchell had the presence of mind—while literally falling out of bounds—to rifle a pass to Madi Malone.
The freshman post converted the ensuing layup with less than four seconds to play. Wethersfield inexplicably failed to call timeout, and the Norsemen advanced to the sectional final for the first time in nine years with a 50-48 victory.
The Norsemen (23-6) will face Annawan, which ended the Newark season a year ago en route to claiming the state championship, Thursday in Hinckley.
“I have never had a basket like that before,” Malone said.
“[Meggie Scott, the No. 1 option for Newark] couldn’t get a shot,” Mitchell said. “There was everyone everywhere. I just kind of threw it over there. I saw Madi’s hands there.”
“Our goal was to attack the basket,” Scott said.
Scott, who matched Wethersfield guard Lexi Nichols’ 19 points for game-high honors, tied the game at 48-48 with her fifth 3-pointer of the night.
“I couldn’thave done it without her screen,” Scott said of the Malone pick to free her with 47 seconds to play.
The fifth Scott field goal from beyond the arc capped a frenetic fourth quarter.
After trailing the entire first half, which ended with Wethersfield holding a 26-20 advantage, Newark limited the Flying Geese to five third-quarter points.
Malone gave the Norsemen their first lead of the game with an inside score to end the third quarter.
Riane Tomsa and Scott hit back-to-back 3-pointers moments later to extend the Newark lead to38-33.
“[Tomsa] is our go-to girl,” Scott said.
Brooke Kala pushed the Newark lead to its game-largest at six by splitting two free throws, but Wethersfield would answer with a flurry.
Tori Rashid hit two 3-pointers and Nicholas’ 3-point play gave the Flying Geese the lead.
Brittney Litton had her lone field goal of the game with a minute and change to go to maintain the 3-point Wethersfield cushion.
But the Scott 22-footer and miss on the ensuing possession enabled Newark to hold for afinal shot.
“We just wanted to stay composed,” Malone said. “It was such a huge win for us and our coach [Barb Scott]."
Malone and Tomsa finished with eight and seven points, respectively.
Newark junior Evie Martin had a game-high 10 rebounds before fouling out late in the game.
“[Malone] is a great athlete,” coach Scott said. “It was a huge assist [by Mitchell] at the right time. It was a huge team effort.”
Newark struggled offensively early in missing 17 of its 24 first-half shots.
But Scott hit three of her five 3-pointers, including a 24-foot bomb as time expired, in the first quarter.
“I like having the ball in my hands at the end of the quarter,” Meggie Scott said. “It was a momentum-grabber.”
“They kept us in the game,” her mother said.