SPRINGFIELD — A group of Steven Newell’s friends walked by the Wittenberg players as they were warming up for Saturday’s game against Wooster.
“Steven Newell!” they chanted. “Steven Newell!”
The same friends were there after the game to mob Newell and his fellow Tigers after a 68-62 overtime victory at Pam Evans Smith Arena. Newell deserved the attention. He had one of his best games of the season with nine points in 29 minutes.
The sophomore guard from Northmont High School hadn’t played that many minutes or scored that many points since the season opener. He hit 3-of-5 3-pointers, including one early in the second half that helped keep Wittenberg in the lead when Wooster was on a hot streak.
“My teammates had a lot of confidence in me,” Newell said. “They were doubling Clayton (Black) and Alex (Brandt) a little bit. I was open at the top of the key, and I got some good passes from my teammates.”
“I thought his movement without the ball was really, really good,” Wittenberg coach Bill Brown said. “He knocked down shots when he had an opportunity. We just hope he can build off of that.”
The victory secured a share of the North Coast Athletic Conference title for the Tigers. No. 21 Wittenberg (18-5, 12-2 NCAC) can win the championship outright at 8 tonight by beating DePauw (13-10, 7-7 NCAC) in Greencastle, Ind.
If Newell can shoot like he did Saturday, the Tigers will be in a good shape for the postseason. Last season, he started 19 games and averaged 5.9 points per game. This year, he started the first 14 games, but he lost his starting job on Jan. 14 to senior Michael Duffy, and his minutes dwindled.
“It really lit a fire under me,” Newell said. “I’m trying to play better now and focus on defense.”
Newell leads the team in 3-point percentage (22-of-44, 50 percent). He’s 6-of-7 from long range in the last three games. He’s now averaging 4.3 points per game.
“We’ve got seven seniors,” Newell said. “I’m just trying to do whatever coach asks and help anyway I can.”