This was the kind of game Effingham coach Jeff Schafer was expecting last month.
Effingham bested Newton by 25 points in the team's November matchup during their Thanksgiving tournament. But Newton gave Effingham a run for the money Monday night, with the Hearts winning 63-53.
"I thought their girls played really well," Schafer said.
Newton led for much of the first half, extending their lead to 25-18 at one point.
The Flaming Hearts answered going on an 8-0 into the half to take a 26-25 lead.
"That was big, I told them 'You guys found a way to take the lead,'" Schafer said. "We made them take tough shots."
Newton coach Brad Harris agreed that Effingham's late surge changed the game.
"They hit some big shots," Harris said. "We have two-minute letdowns that cost us."
The Eagles tied the game midway through the third quarter, with two free throws by Megan Jansen tying the game at 33-33.
But Effingham responded with six straight points on a free throw by Lauren Stephenson, a Stephanie Robb layup and a three pointer by Josie Zerrusen.
Netwon continued threatening throughout, trailing by just four heading into the fourth. The Eagles cut the lead to 44-43 behind Emily Kerner's only five points, but would never get closer. Effingham extended the lead to 52-46, and iced the game at the free throw line.
Caitlin Kaufman had 10 of her 20 points in the fourth quarter, making five of six free throws to help put away the game.
The Hearts were 14 of 18 in the fourth quarter from the free-throw line, and made almost all of them down the stretch.
"We made them when it was close, we made them we were up just two or three," Schafer said.
For Newton, it was about playing hard early and putting pressure on the hosting Hearts.
"We came out with a lot more intensity and aggression (than in November)," Harris said. "The girls played very hard.
"It was huge. It's a big step forward, and we can play with the top teams in the area," Harris said.
Kaufman led all scorers with 20 points. Zerrusen added 16 points and nine rebounds for Effingham, and Kelli Utz had 10 points and eight rebounds.
Jansen topped the Eagles with 16 points. Andrea Cartright had 11 points and four rebounds off the bench, and Morgan Swingler had six points and six rebounds.
While the intensity picked up for Effingham late, they were rewarded on the hustle plays, Schafer said.
"The loose balls and rebounds evened out," Schafer said.
Effingham had 27 rebounds on the day, while Newton had 26.
Newton (9-4) travels to face Paris Thursday night, while Effingham (8-3) hosts Cahokia Friday night.
Effingham 63, Newton 53
Newton 13 12 12 16 - 53
Effingham 11 15 15 22 - 63
Newton - Jansen 16, Cartright 11, Will 7, Swingler 6, Kerner 5, Bierman 4, Wirth 2, Stewart 2
Effingham - Kaufman 20, Zerrusen 16, Utz 10, Robb 9, Michael 6, Stephenson 2