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Hoops: Newton at Luella
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MCDONOUGH - Smooth ball movement. Steady defense. Easy transition baskets. Solid shooting.

In the words of Newton senior guard Sean Monk: "It's like a perfect day."

Close enough to perfect for the Rams, who rebounded from a sloppy performance to rout Luella on Tuesday night, 74-55.

"I thought we played well," Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said, after the Rams used a 12-2 run to seize control at the start of the game, then an 11-0 third-quarter run to turn the contest into a rout. "We played a sound defensive game. Our guards played particularly well."

Earlier Tuesday, the Newton girls could not overcome a cold shooting performance in a 57-35 loss to Luella.

The Newton boys (15-4 overall, 7-3 Region 2-AAAAA) extended their win streak to four games and have won six of their past seven. But Friday's 57-48 victory over Lithonia was marked by a season-high 20 turnovers, and the Rams were anxious to play better against the Lions.

They did.

Newton only committed six turnovers (five in the final five minutes), dished out 18 assists as a team and shot 54 percent from the floor (27-for-50).

Defensively, even though Luella (4-12, 2-8) enjoyed a height advantage inside - center Pierre Tyson led all scorers with 23 points - the Rams clamped down on Luella's backcourt (forcing 18 turnovers) and controlled the tempo throughout the contest.

"It was a good game for us," said Monk, who scored Newton's first five points en route to a 22-point night on 9-of-14 shooting. "We played as a team, as a real unit tonight. Everybody shared the ball."

After a Monk 3-pointer made it 5-2, Montrell Grimes scored a basket, Kentarius Farley hit a 3-pointer from the left wing and Jamon Hawkins tipped in a Farley miss to give the Rams a 12-2 advantage. Luella would come no closer than six points the rest of the way.

Up 38-22 at halftime, Grimes scored 10 of his 16 points during the third quarter. He sparked an 11-0 surge that gave the Rams a 49-25 advantage midway through the quarter.

Late in the third, reserve Jonathan Turner scored his first career varsity points on a layup, drawing a huge cheer from the Newton bench.

"We wanted to play well," Rasmussen said. "We don't take anybody lightly. It's the old adage: 'Respect everybody but fear nobody.' We got a good jump on them."

Grimes finished 8-for-8 at the foul line. Hawkins added 15 points and Farley scored a career-high 13 as four Rams ended up in double figures.

For the girls, a wretched shooting night doomed the Lady Rams.

Newton (6-13, 2-8) struggled mightily on offense, missing 18 of its 21 field-goal attempts in the first two quarters. Overall, the Lady Rams finished just 9-for-56 from the floor (16.1 percent).

Meanwhile, Luella (10-3, 6-3) didn't exactly shoot well, either, but the Lady Lions got enough production from center and Clemson signee Shaniqua Pauldo to build an early advantage.

Pauldo scored nine of her 20 points in the first quarter, as the Lady Lions took a 16-6 lead after one quarter.

"It's kind of a mental thing; our girls look up and see that double-digit (deficit) on the scoreboard," Newton coach Tiffani Johnson said. "It's just hard to fight back."

Loren Wilkins brought the Lady Rams within 19-13 on two free throws with 2:17 left in the first half. But Luella scored the final eight points of the half to lead 27-13 at the break.

Back-to-back baskets by Qaiserah Shariff and Shay Marks cut Newton's deficit to 40-29 early in the fourth quarter. Luella then blew it open, hitting nine of their 10 fourth-quarter shots.

Marks led Newton with 12 points. Wilkins added 11. For Luella, Pauldo also pulled down 12 rebounds and blocked five shots.

"We're learning every game," Johnson said. "I think once we get to the homestretch of the season, we'll be playing pretty well."

Newton plays host to Union Grove today, before traveling Saturday to rival Alcovy.