STERLING – A fast start made for a quick evening for the Newman girls basketball team in its Three Rivers East opener on Monday night against Bureau Valley.

The Comets used some suffocating defense to generate early offense, and they went on to a 57-26 victory against the Storm. A mercy rule clock was in effect for the majority of the fourth quarter.

Newman (2-2, 1-0) raced out to a 19-4 lead in the first quarter, with the guard combination Macaire Brown and Josie Rank wreaking havoc with the BV offense. They tipped or stole several passes in the first 8 minutes to get the Comets’ offense in gear.

“We really have to be on the girls,” Brown said. “We’re not a big team, so we just have get the ball and run. That’s going to be important for us all season.”

Skylar Savage and Alejandra Padilla opened the second quarter with steals and fast-break layups to put Newman up 23-4 before Bureau Valley (2-4, 0-1) fought back a bit. Sophomore guard Kyra Stoller dropped in a pair of buckets, and junior forward Madison Dye connected on 5 of 6 free throws to draw the Storm to within 25-14 with 23 seconds left until halftime.

A basket from Padilla put the Comets up 27-14 at the break. A sticky Newman defense forced the Storm into 20 first-half turnovers, and BV would go on to commit 34 for the game.

The Comets amassed 23 steals, with Rank and Brown coming up with five, and Padilla and Savage adding four apiece.

“If we can be physical, if we can be active with our hands and get a little bit of a lead, that gives you confidence,” Newman coach Joe Salvatori said. “It’s like that in any sport. The first quarter was great for us. The second quarter, I thought we committed some fouls we didn’t need to, and we got a little lackadaisical on defense. That happens.”

The Comets removed any doubt about the outcome of the game by starting the third quarter with a 14-2 run, capped by a basket from Bella Trancoso with 3:39 left in the period.

Two free throws from Brown with 5:36 left in the fourth quarter put Newman up 54-24 and set a running clock in motion the rest of the way.

Padilla led the Comets with 15 points, four steals and three rebounds, while Brown stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, eight rebounds and five steals. Rank finished with 10 points, eight boards and five steals.

For Bureau Valley, Dye had seven points and four rebounds, while Stoller and Caroline Konneck added five points apiece. Sam Bohm chipped in four points and six boards.

First-year Storm head coach Daniel Sinclair noted his club will be a work in progress, especially early in the season, but expects to be more competitive in time.

“We tell the girls over and over again that we want them to be better in February that they are now,” Sinclair said. “We won’t be like this all year, and we know that. There were some improvements from last game to this game, so I’m happy with that. Sometimes you hope that the baby steps you’re taking are bigger than what they are, but we’ll keep working at it. As it gets later in the season, we hope to compete better in games like this one.”

Star of the game: Macaire Brown, Newman, 14 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals

Key performers: Alejandra Padilla, Newman, 15 points, 4 steals; Madison Dye, BV, 7 points, 4 rebounds

Up next: St. Bede at Bureau Valley & Oregon at Newman, both 7 p.m. Wednesday