Newark’s first four games were nip and tuck.
The Wildcats enjoyed a chance to let loose Monday. Sophomore Kym Royster dominated at both ends, and junior Maggie Mitchell was content to just feed her the ball in Newark’s 58-36 victory against Grove City in a Ohio Capital Conference-Ohio Division game at Jimmy Allen Gymnasium.
“We started off with a tough schedule. The OCC is no walk in the park,” Mitchell said. “We were able to come out and get our young kids in. (Royster) is getting her feet wet and getting more and more confident.”
Mitchell’s early 3-point shooting got Newark (4-1, 3-1) started. She hit four first-half 3-pointers, the fourth giving the Wildcats a 22-7 lead. Then, Royster scored, and scored, and scored.
Royster had 12 second-quarter points to give the Wildcats a 36-13 halftime lead. She added all 10 of Newark’s third-quarter points.
“I just came in and ran up and down the floor,” Royster said. “The coaches liked it, so we stuck to it. I just like running up and down the floor. I like catching and finishing around the basket.”
Royster finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds, but she could not have done it without Mitchell. Mitchell had 14 of her 16 points in the first half. Then, she had six of her nine assists in the second half, hitting a streaking Royster at the rim on 50-foot passes several times.
Mitchell also had a team-high 11 rebounds, finishing one assist shy of a triple-double. Mitchell had a streak of four consecutive games of at least 20 points stopped, but she still scored in double figures for the fifth straight time. Royster has been in double figures four times, inching past her previous season high of 18 late in the first half.
“We did it a lot this summer, and we got back to it,” Mitchell said. “We needed a game where we could just get out and run and get back to what her and I have. It is a great connection. She runs the floor so well. Her hands are like a football player. She gets it every time.”
Grove City (4-3, 1-3) began to match baskets with Newark in the second half, but it was a struggle early for the Greyhounds. They managed just one first-quarter field goal and shot 25 percent for the game. Royster and Paige Cashin had four blocks each.
The Wildcats play twice more at home this week — Groveport on Friday and Teays Valley on Saturday — before heading to Atlanta after Christmas for the Peach State Basketball Holiday Invitational.
Newark could use a breather after opening with Lancaster, Pickerington North, Zanesville and Gahanna, the latter three are contenders for a top seed in the Central District tournament in February.
“What we said going into this game and going into every game is we want to get better every game,” coach J.R. Shumate said. “Regardless of what the scoreboard says, we need to get better. Tonight, we got a lot of young kids playing time.
“In a game like Gahanna and Pickerington North, some of our inexperienced players didn’t get a whole lot of minutes. We are trying to create some continuity with the eight players we have in our rotation.”