Minus most of the players who led Newark to a 28-2 record and a regional title last year, the Lady Norsemen struggled through a slow start in their 2014 postseason opener.
“We were definitely getting frustrated in the first few minutes,” forward Kristine Zitt said. “Coach sat us down, he put it in our heads we just needed to calm down and play our game.”
Part of that game was Newark capitalizing on its size advantage. Zitt, a 5-10 senior, combined with 5-10 junior Jessica Hager in the post to build a 10-point second-quarter lead en route to a 46-17 win Wednesday night over Gardner-South Wilmington in the Class 1A Dwight Regional.
GSW used slow-down tactics in the first quarter, which ended with Newark leading 7-4. Hager made a difference in the second period with a putback and two layups on high post passes from Witt for a 15-5 lead.
“Kris and I have been playing together since fifth and sixth grade,” Hager said of Zitt. “We just kind of have that natural chemistry.”
After Zitt and Hager combined for points, Nicole Lawrence connected on back-to-back three-pointers to extend Newark’s lead to 21-6 at halftime.
“It’s hard to get the inside thing going when they’re playing four in the middle,” Newark coach Brian Holman said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to work around it.
“Eventually you’ve got to hit shots for them to space out. We finally did. In the second half we got inside, we got outside.”
Guard Rachel Lape hit three three-pointers in the third quarter, the last one putting Newark ahead 33-13 with three minutes left in the quarter.
Freshman center Jasmine Mitchell scored 10 points for Newark (21-6). Lawrence and Lape both finished with nine points, Hager had eight off the bench and Zitt contributed six points and 12 rebounds.
“In the first half I thought Jess Hager was outstanding,” Holman said. “She came in and did her job.”
“We definitely like to get an even amount from everybody,” Witt said. “We like to get everybody their chance.”
Lexi Posing scored six points and Emily Foley had five for GSW (11-15).
“We were trying to stall a little bit,” GSW coach Adam Leigh said. “We played them once already this year and lost by about the same. We were trying to slow it down and keep it close.”