Bobcats break out brooms

The Bobcats don’t have the size or strength to match most teams pound-for-pound in the paint.

Though they’re at their best when they’re driving to the hoop.

Utilizing that strategy to establish a large enough cushion against Newton, the Marshalltown boys basketball team hung on for its first victory of the season with an 85-70 decision over the Cardinals in non-conference play Saturday.

Aaron Hauser scored a career-high 26 points with a mix of slashes to the basket and daggers from outside to help the Bobcats overcome a late rally from Newton. Trailing by 25, the Cardinals reeled the Bobcats back within five with just over a minute to play before Marshalltown sealed the win by sinking 9 of its last 10 attempts at the line.

The Bobcats (1-5) created their sizable gap by not being afraid to take it inside.

“We have a tendency when things don’t go well offensively to settle for 3s,” said MHS coach Scott Smith, who used his first timeout to remind his players to not settle for outside shots.

“To the kids’ credit they came out and established a great rhythm for us – and that was to take the ball to the hole and then we can shoot 3s from there. The great thing tonight is that everyone contributed.”

Brady Arment scored 13 points off the bench in his first outing after serving a five-game suspension, while Austin Kluver added 12, Connor Johnson and Mason McCarville each had 11. Dylan Diveney tallied nine points and seven rebounds as the Bobcats snapped a seven-game skid dating back to last season.

Hauser scored 15 points in the first half and tallied 13 during a 22-7 surge that helped Marshalltown claim a 33-17 advantage on his corner 3 with 2:31 to play in the second quarter. Back-to-back 3s by Chandler Sturtz and Tyler Wood trimmed the lead to 10 at the break, though the Bobcats pounced again in the third.

Creating points from its defense, MHS rattled off 8 points in a 30-second span and seized its biggest advantage of 58-33 with two minutes left in the third. McCarville’s triple off a steal sparked the run and Kluver followed with a 3-point play before Diveney scored off a putback.

“We all just came together as a team and things fell together,” said Hauser. “We had wide-open shots and drove to the basket like coach told us.”

Though Marshalltown wasn’t home free just yet.

Newton (3-4) rattled off the first 13 points of the fourth quarter with consecutive 3-pointers by Wood and Sturtz bringing the Cardinals within 61-53 with 6:32 to play. The lead hovered around a dozen points before Connor Gholson and Wood connected from deep to trim the margin to 74-69 with 1:09 remaining. Newton didn’t convert another field goal the rest of the way as Marshalltown missed just one of its last 10 free throws to ice the game.

No matter how it played out or who the opponent was, Smith and his squad have something to rally behind as they head into 2014.

“I don’t think words can describe how big that win was for us tonight,” said Smith. “For the kids it rewards them so much for the effort they’ve put in You can’t always gauge how well you’re doing based on wins and losses in our league because it’s so competitive. You just need some wins in there to validate what you’re doing and ultimately it’s for the kids to give them the reward for the hard work they’ve put in.”

Wood carried the Cardinals with 26 points and a 7-of-11 effort from deep. Sturtz added 16 points with three treys of his own as Newton made 12-of-24 overall. Smith was well aware of Newton’s “great shooters” and knew they could rally at any point, though he credited his senior captains McCarville, Diveney and Johnson for calming the storm when things got tight.

Newton coach Nick Wilkins warned his team that Marshalltown would be “the best shooting team we’ll see all year” though a sluggish effort gave them too much ground to cover after halftime.

“(Marshalltown) just played harder than us the whole first half,” said Wilkins. “They’re relentless, I’m impressed with their shooting ability We just got too far behind. The intensity went up in the second half, but when you do that in the first half, it’s pretty difficult to come back.”

Hauser took advantage of the Cardinals’ lax effort early, before things opened up more for his teammates.

“He’s creative, he’s aggressive,” said Wilkins of the Bobcat sophomore. “You give him an inch, he’s going to take a mile.”

MHS will face Pella in a scrimmage over winter break before opening the second half of the season on the road Jan. 3 against Class 4A No. 9 Southeast Polk at 7:45 p.m.