CLAREMONT - Not only did the Cardinals grab their first win of a difficult year, they did so against their biggest rival, defeating Newport 54-51 at Carr Gym Monday night.
It wasn’t easy for Stevens, as a last second Newport shot ended up short to give Stevens a hard-fought, three-point win.
With over 300 fans in attendance, including a very loud and red student section high above the court, Stevens exploded out of the gate, grabbing a 23-5 lead as Josh Stithen was a mountain of muscle for Stevens in the paint.
“We wanted this game so bad tonight, this team was as determined as it has been all season,” said Stithen after the game as he lit up the scoreboard with 10 first-quarter points.
As the Cardinals fed off the crowd, Newport was tentative early with missed shots and turnovers, but Sean Moody and JT Blaine closed out the quarter with back-to-back hoops to keep the score within reach at 23-10.
Newport first-year head coach Bill Page switched up his defense a bit to counter the Cardinals dominance in the paint as Chase Hamilton was whistled for his third foul. Blaine and Moody ripped off seven quick points and the once big Stevens' lead was only 24-17 midway into the second quarter.
Ethan Johnson and Stithen answered back for Stevens but Blaine’s buzzer beater had Newport clawing their way back into the game as the visitors trailed 29-21 at the half.
“I knew both teams wanted this win tonight and it was just a good, hard-fought basketball game with lots of intensity from both sides tonight,” said Page after the game.
That intensity started out with a barrage of three pointers in the third quarter from Johnson for Stevens and Joey Ackerman and Moody for the Tigers as the lead had shrunk to 35-31 when Blaine’s reverse layup found net. The third quarter ended with Stevens hanging on to a 39-33 lead.
“This game had a tremendous effort from both teams tonight but Josh Stithen was just spectacular for us this evening,” said Stevens first-year head coach Dan Ryan.
Stithen again gave Stevens a cushion with an old fashioned three-point play and Owen Taylor’s hoop put the Cardinals ahead 46-39 midway in the final quarter. Moody’s theft and three-point play brought the Newport crowd to their feet, and then Ackerman cut the lead to only 3 points 44-41.
With Stevens leading 48-45, Newport twice rimmed out three-pointers that would have tied the game, but moments later, Moody drained a deep three pointer to cut the once-18-point Stevens lead to only 50-48 with 25 seconds remaining.
The Cardinals' Johnson canned four straight free throws, barely touching the net at all, while Moody again hit a three pointer with 2.3 seconds remaining, but the Newport last-second shot to tie the game fell short.
“We had lots of players contribute to this win and it was all about the effort of the kids tonight that made the difference,” said coach Ryan.
Stithen would lead all scorers with 26 points and 14 rebounds. He was followed by Johnson’s 16 point, 11 rebound effort. Taylor grabbed 10 rebounds for the Cardinals.
Newport was led by Moody’s 20 points while Ackerman chipped in with 15 points and Blaine added 13 points.
Stevens travels to John Stark (4-9) while Newport hosts Fall Mtn. (8-6) for senior night. Both games are Friday evening.
In JV action, it was Stevens defeating Newport 55-31. Brennan Huntoon had 17 points and Dylan Chambers chipped in with 12 for the Cardinals, while Devyn Heino scored 13 for the Tigers.