Marshalltown senior Kali Banks played sparingly last season at the varsity level. She had never been a go-to player and hasn't really been asked to carry a team.
But when the Bobcat coaching staff sought more leadership, Banks stepped up and took it upon herself to be more assertive and more aggressive.
It was Banks' career-high 13 points Saturday against Newton that helped MHS end a four-game losing streak.
Marshalltown senior Emily Rebik (34) scores two points over Newton junior Sarah Kalkhoff during the Bobcats’ 44-30 win over the Cardinals at the Roundhouse on Saturday. Rebik finished with four points, six rebounds and three steals. The win for MHS also ended a four-game losing streak.
The Bobcats used a 13-0 run in the first half to pull away and never trailed again during a 44-30 victory at the Roundhouse. The loss also snapped the Cardinals' two-game winning streak.
"They didn't say anything to me," said Banks when asked if the coaches asked her to be more aggressive. "They told the team that they were looking for a leader, so I took it upon myself to go hard all the time. It's hard to play on Saturdays sometimes, and we were tired, but it just felt good today."
The Bobcats also got a strong effort from junior Rachel Blagg. She may have played her best game of the season, finishing with nine points, six rebounds and three steals, while senior Amanda Hughes also chipped in nine points.
Marshalltown 44, Newton 30
NEWTON (2-6) - Sydney Jenkins 0 2-4 2, Macy Leonard 1 0-0 3, Lizzie Stock 1 1-1 3, Hannah Rhoads 1 2-2 5, Shelby Gray 2 0-0 4, Michaela Jacobson 3 1-3 7, Sarah Kalkhoff 2 1-2 5. TOTALS 20 8-14 30.
MHS (3-5) - Karli McClure 1 0-0 2, Amanda Hughes 4 0-0 9, Kyra Hungerford 0 1-2 1, Ellyn Boland 0 0-0 0, Samantha Hughes 0 6-8 6, Molly Major 0 0-0 0, Emily Rebik 2 0-1 4, Rachel Blagg 3 3-9 9, Kali Banks 5 3-4 13. TOTALS 15 13-24 44.
3-Point Goals - NEWT 2 (Rhoads, Leonard), MHS 1 (A. Hughes).
Marshalltown (3-5) won for the first time since beating Des Moines Roosevelt on Dec. 6. Banks hopes the effort can carry over into second half of the season when the Bobcats resume play in the strong Central Iowa Metropolitan League.
"It was a nice win going into Christmas break," said Banks. "We have to play like this all the time. There are some harder teams out there so we are going to have to keep playing well.
"We have to play hard all the time, play smart and play our game. We have to keep our composure better, too."
Composure is the one thing MHS coach Stacy O'Hare thinks can plague the Bobcats at times. O'Hare still feels like her squad is committing too many unforced turnovers. That definitely has to be cleaned up before they resume play in early January.
"We did a good job, but we still need to work on the fundamentals," said O'Hare. "Ball control is big for us. We just can't have those unforced turnovers."
The Bobcats jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first 4 minutes of the game thanks to an effective full-court press. Newton (2-6) managed to even things up at 7-all, but MHS ended the period on a 7-0 run and then scored the first six points of the second frame as well.
Banks, Blagg and Hughes combined to score all 13 points during the 13-0 run. Newton did outscore MHS 7-6 the rest of the quarter, but Marshalltown still led 26-14 at the break.
"It was effective at the beginning," O'Hare said of the press. "They adjusted to it in the second half. But we got some easy steals and some easy layups. We are more effective when we can get out and run. When they adjusted to it, it forced us to score more in the half-court, which we struggle with."
O'Hare was happy to see Newton play both man and zone on defense. That allowed her to get a good look at how the Bobcats' zone offense looked.
Banks may have benefited the most at the offensive end for the Bobcats. She scored a handful of her 13 points just by taking the ball from the baseline, giving a ball fake and attacking the basket off the dribble.
"She can be a leader on this team," O'Hare said of Banks. "She uses the ball fake really well. It's new for her to be on the perimeter, but I think she is handling it really well. She has a great sense of where the ball is going to be, too."
The Bobcats played even with Newton in the second half, outscoring the Cardinals by just two. But the damage had already been done in the first 16 minutes.
Emily Rebik scored four points, grabbed six boards and had three steals for MHS. Samantha Hughes scored all six of her points from the line. The Bobcats, though, were just 13-of-24 from the charity stripe. Newton was 8-of-14.
Marshalltown also played the game without the services of backup guard Tabby Steffensen, who was injured during the junior varsity game. She suffered an apparent shoulder injury. O'Hare said there was no break but more testing was needed to establish the severity of the injury.
Both teams were supposed to play Friday night. The Cardinals beat Little Hawkeye Conference rival Knoxville on the road, while the Bobcats' game against previously state-ranked Ames was postponed due to poor weather conditions.
O'Hare admitted the fact that MHS not playing may have been to her squad's advantage.
"I don't know how it affected them. It's hard to play on a Saturday anyway," said O'Hare. "It's an afternoon game and there's not a big crowd. I think it played to our advantage that we didn't play (Friday). We weren't worn down, but we practiced and got a good shoot-around in last night. I couldn't tell if they were tired or not."
The Bobcats held the Cardinals to their lowest scoring output of the season. Newton's previous low in points came in the season opener of a 51-33 loss to Carlisle. ... Newton lost its first five games of the season before most recently beating Pella Christian 40-35 and taking down Knoxville 60-47. ... The Bobcats next play Friday, Jan. 3, at Southeast Polk. ... Friday's postponed game against Ames will be made up on Feb. 1. The start time of that game is still TBD. ... The first-ever "All-State Night" took place Saturday in between the girls' and boys' games. The Bobcats honored any former or current athlete who advanced to a state meet or tourney or was named to an all-state team in the previous calendar year dating back to last winter. That event was originally scheduled to take place Friday.