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Hoops: Stephenson sweeps Newton
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COVINGTON - Simply put, the Stephenson High basketball squads were again just plain better than Newton on Friday evening.

Unable to avenge a previous sweep Jan. 11, Newton's Senior Night was spoiled by two of the top teams in region to end the regular season.

For the boys, the Jaguars (17-6 overall, 11-3 Region 2-AAAAA), tied for first in region play, showed why they are among the elite with a 66-52 victory, equaling the same amount of points scored against the Rams when they first met.

"You can't play with people (who) are longer and just as athletic and quicker if you're sloppy," said Newton boys coach Rick Rasmussen, "and we just didn't really have an identity tonight."

Earlier Friday, the fourth-ranked Lady Jaguars (21-3, 12-2) dominated in almost every aspect of the game, winning 65-23.

"They are a very quick and aggressive team," said Newton girls coach Tiffani Johnson. "They're taller, stronger and capitalized on all turnovers, so it was just tougher for us."

In the boys game, amidst a bruised and sickly lineup - one without starting guard Sean Monk (shoulder) - the Rams (17-8, 8-6) could not get into any kind of rhythm, offensively or defensively.

Despite shooting 18-of-45 from the field (40 percent), Newton struggled from long distance (29 percent). Meanwhile, the Jags were 26-of-57 shooting (46 percent) and 8-of-19 (42 percent) from behind the 3-point arc.

Defensively, Stephenson outrebounded the Rams 34 to 18 and forced 18 turnovers, seven above Newton's average per game.

"We needed to shoot a very good percentage and have 10 or less turnovers," said Rasmussen. "Any miss fuels their break. We needed to shoot a high percentage and not turn it over to play with them."

Tied at 6 with two minutes and 40 seconds to go in the first quarter after back-to-back buckets by Stephenson's Kevin Dukes, Charles Edwards responded with a pair of baskets to give Newton the edge.

The Rams would retain the advantage, 12-10, entering the second period.

After trading baskets to open the second, Adrien Coleman drilled a 3-pointer to give the Jags a 19-16 lead. But Omar Crawley countered with a deep ball of his own - three of his overall seven points - tying the game yet again.

However, it would be the closest Newton could get, as Stephenson went on a 10-0 run behind the hot shooting of Coleman and Dukes. Combined they scored 18 points in the quarter, shooting 6-of-8 from the field, including 4-of-4 from downtown.

Coleman finished with a game-high 25 points and six rebounds, making up for his six-point performance the first time against Newton earlier this season. Dukes ended with 18 points, including 4-of-8 from long distance.

"(Stephenson) is a very good basketball team," praised Rasmussen. "They've got a lot of talent, and they shot the ball extremely well."

Trailing 32-24 at halftime, things only got worse for the Rams, as they scored just three points in the third quarter on 1-of-10 shooting. Stephenson took advantage, adding 16 points to take a 48-27 lead into the fourth frame.

A missed dunk by a high-flying Montrell Grimes seemed to only ignite the Jags, as they immediately pushed the ball upcourt for a wide-open Dukes 3-pointer, making it 41-26 with 2:16 remaining until the fourth quarter.

Frustrated after a dismal performance in the third, Newton scored 25 points in the fourth, making it somewhat of a game despite ultimately falling short.

Stephenson's Kerry Hartley finished with eight points, while William Tolefree had five, including a game-high eight rebounds.

Jamon Hawkins led the Rams with 12 points, including two 3-pointers. Tevin Bradley added 11 points. Edwards had nine points and seven rebounds.

"Basically, we have to forget about it," said Rasmussen regarding the loss. "What we have to learn is that it didn't matter, because we play Redan on Tuesday (in the region tournament) and that one does. If you're good enough you go on and win that game, and if you're not you need to get out of the way and go home, so something good is going to happen no matter what."

In the girls game, the Lady Rams (7-17, 3-11) would never have the lead once Stephenson's Jylisa Williams connected with the opening basket.

The Lady Jags were 7-of-21 from the field during the first quarter, tripling the amount of shots Newton could get off.

In fact, Stephenson finished 24-of-72 overall from the field (33 percent). In comparison, Newton was just 7-of-50 (14 percent).

Down 17-6 after the first frame, the Lady Rams found themselves in the middle of a nightmarish second quarter thanks to half-court pressing. Newton shot 1-of-15 from the floor, scoring just two points.

A poor offensive display by Stephenson (3-of-22 shooting) kept it 29-8 at halftime.

"You've got to learn how to step up, regardless of who your opponent is," said Johnson, "and we didn't do that tonight."

Newton's Ashleigh Smith opened the third period with a bucket; however, the Lady Jags came right back with a Shyanne Halfkenny basket.

As the game continued, Stephenson just kept getting stronger, leading 49-14 after three quarters. They forced another 14 turnovers during the second half, keeping the Lady Rams off balance and causing low-percentage shots.

Overall, 12 different players scored for Stephenson.

Yasheeka Jones paced the Lady Jags with 12 points. Williams added 11, while Halfkenny had eight. Prittany White and Hiydaayah Williams each scored seven points apiece.

Shay Marks led Newton with eight points, including two 3-pointers and four blocks. Qaiserah Shariff, Loren Wilkins and Smith each added five points.

"I had a good time with them," said Johnson of her senior class. "Even though we had our ups and downs this season, we always had a good time. I've seen them grow up, so it will be hard to see them go."