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2013-14 basketball preview: Newton

Published Dec. 3 at 12 p.m. | Last updated Dec. 2 at 10:50 a.m.

SCHEDULE

December — 5-7, at Hays tournament; 13, at Salina Central; 17, Salina South.

January — 7, at Campus; 10, Derby; 14, Hutchinson; 21, Valley Center (G); 23-25, at El Dorado tournament (B); 28, Valley Center (B); 30-Feb. 1, Newton tournament (G).

February — 4, at Maize; 7, Salina Central; 11, at Salina South; 14, at Eisenhower; 18, Campus; 21, at Derby; 25, at Hutchinson; 28, Maize.

BOYS

Coach: Don Cameron, 11th season

Last season: 5-16

Top players

Gunar Drinnen, 5-8, sr., G

Jack Kingsley, 5-9, jr., G

Brenden Downey, 6-4, jr., F

Josh Carlgren, 6-1, sr., F

Cameron believes he has a team that will improve as the season goes along, and a good indicator will be the Railers’ offensive output. Newton scored 50 points or more just three times after the winter break last season while losing 13 of its last 15 games.

“We had a hard time putting points on the board,” Cameron said. “The kids have really worked hard to fix that. They’ve done a lot of things shooting-wise and made the commitment.”

The Railers return an experienced backcourt. Drinnen, an honorable-mention all-league selection, can play the point and shooting guard positions. Kingsley averaged seven points last season.

“Gunar is just a strong young man and the kind of guy you need on the floor,” Cameron said. “Jack started as a sophomore and is just a very smooth, consistent athlete. He’s got a smooth shot and has worked on putting it on the floor a lot.”

Newton’s ability to battle inside should be improved. Cameron likes Carlgren’s toughness, while Downey, 6-foot-5 junior Samuel Lehman and 6-4 junior Josh Robinson provide a wealth of size the Railers didn’t possess a year ago.

“Last year, we were the 6-foot and under team,” said Cameron, who is in his 40th season of coaching. “We should be able to play a variety of different ways this year. We could put five guard types on the floor or put size out there when we need size.”

GIRLS

Coach: Randy Jordan, 11th season

Last season: 20-5, third in Class 5A

Top players

Jacque Anderson, 5-6, sr., G

Hannah Carlgren, 5-10, sr., F

Logan Porter, 5-10, sr., F

Taylor Stahly, 5-8, jr., G

Newton returns three starters from a team that lost by two points in the Class 5A semifinals to eventual champion St. Thomas Aquinas. The Railers should be good again, but with the graduation of all-state player Abbie Lehman, the margin for error isn’t as great.

“With Abbie at (6-foot-3) in the lane, we could gamble a lot on defense and know she was there to clean up,” Jordan said. “We’ll still primarily be a man-to-man team, but we’ll have to change our defenses up throughout games.”

Newton, which finished second in Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division I last season, yielded a stifling average of 36 points. The follow-up will be interesting, as Jordan wants to increase the tempo and take advantage of a group of talented perimeter shooters, led by junior Taylor Stahly. Stahly made at least one three-pointer in Newton’s first 17 games last season.

“We didn’t push the ball a lot because we executed so well in the half-court,” Jordan said. “This year, we’re trying to push the ball quicker and take earlier shots. In transition, if people don’t find our shooters, we’re going to shoot the ball.”

Anderson, Carlgren and Porter provide the bulk of the experience that Newton will count on this season. Sophomore Jana Boston, a solid outside shooter, and her classmate, 5-11 post player Payton Roberts, are candidates for increased roles.

“This team is smart basketball-wise and they understand the game,” Jordan said. “We’ll have to execute well offensively and I think we can guard really well. We just won’t have the shot-blocking ability we had before.”