Paige Cashin didn’t realize it was her final game at Jimmy Allen Gymnasium. But the lone Newark girls senior still managed to go out in style.
Cashin just missed a triple-double, recording 16 points, nine rebounds and eight blocks to lead the Wildcats to a dominant 75-24 victory against overmatched Walnut Ridge on Saturday in a Division I first-round tournament game.
“I didn’t even think about it,” Cashin said. “At least it ended on a good note.”
It was more than a good note for Newark (12-11), which entered the game with an identical record with the Scots (11-12).
But these teams were nowhere equal anywhere else, as the Wildcats led 31-4 by the end of the first.
It only got worse for Walnut Ridge, which couldn’t handle Newark’s hot shooting and stingy defense that led to a whopping 39 turnovers.
It turned into an ideal showing for the Wildcats, who next play at eighth-seeded Hilliard Davidson at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“I think we all realized it’s all or nothing. We came out strong, had a lot of energy and we were definitely ready to go,” Cashin said. “It turned out great. Everyone did their part and we were running things well. It was important for us to move on and make a statement.”
Kim Royster started Newark’s frenetic pace to open the game, scoring the first six of her game-high 21 points.
The Wildcats were just getting started, scoring on nine of their final 10 possessions of the first, the final points coming on a pair of free throws from Tana Barrett, who added 14 points.
After the first-quarter outburst , the defense took over in the second. Newark forced turnovers on eight consecutive Scots possessions at one point.
Barrett added the final blow, converting a layup after a steal to give the Wildcats a 51-8 halftime lead.
“Energy is a big thing,” Cashin said. “It really helped us and got us going.”
Newark’s biggest lead was 57 points, with the biggest second half-highlight coming when Cashin blocked a shot, grabbed the loose ball, dribbled the length of the court and finished the sequence with a left-handed layup.
“We were aggressive defensively and we really limited our turnovers. We only had one turnover in the first quarter and five to six at halftime,” Newark coach J.R. Shumate said. “That’s been our Achilles’ heel all season, but we took care of the ball and got it where it needed to go.”
The challenge will get bigger on the road against Hillard Davidson, but Shumate likes the momentum his team carries into the next round.
Getting the same type of effort from Saturday also would go a long way in helping the Wildcats.
“We need to have the same defensive effort that we had tonight,” Shumate said. “We put a lot of pressure on the ball and I would like to be that disruptive (on Wednesday). If we do that, I think we can have a positive outcome.”