The Newton boys basketball team is built on fundamentals and discipline.
And it was these principles that propelled the home team to a thrilling victory Tuesday night over the much taller Redan Raiders (10-4 overall, 3-2 Region 2-AAAAA), 64-58.
"This is our biggest win of the year," stated Newton head coach Rick Rasmussen, who was not at a loss for words after the game. "I am really proud of the effort and toughness we displayed tonight. It is the kind of intensity that we need to bring every night in our region."
The Redan lineup featured a 6-foot-9 center Kenny Hall, a Division I prospect who is being wooed by Georgia, Georgia Tech and Clemson. Plus, he was flanked by two 6-7 forwards.
"We really used our fouls wisely inside and played very tough defense in the half court, trying not to give up the cheap baskets," said Rasmussen, explaining how his team defended the much larger Raiders.
Although Hall dropped 17 points, he was not a huge factor in the outcome of the game. On the other hand, the Rams (11-3, 4-2) received a big night from senior Sean Monk who tallied a game-high 19 points. He was backed by teammate Jamon Hawkins who netted 15 of his own.
"It was really a tough competitive game," said Monk, "but we really played as a team. We had a good game plan and were able to stick to it."
The first quarter was played at a quick tempo and ended in a 16-16 stalemate. Monk had five of his points in the period while Tee Farley scored five of his seven overall.
But the second quarter was really the turning point, which involved the Rams taking the lead to never relinquish it. They went to the break up 29-28 as Monk added six more while Hawkins hit a big 3-pointer.
The third frame saw the Rams come out smoking, building a lead as big as nine before settling for a 46-39 differential heading into the final period. Center Tevin Bradley split the defense twice for easy layups, accounting for four of his nine points.
With several Rams flirting with foul trouble, Rasmussen had to call upon his bench for some help, to which it responded. Senior Omar Crawley dialed in a long distance trey to keep the momentum going. Hawkins dropped another six points while Monk added four more.
But a 5-0 Redan run at the start of the fourth quarter saw Newton's lead shrink to two. However, the Raiders would get no closer as Monk and Hawkins took charge once again, scoring four and six respectively. Crawley, who was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer, calmly dropped all three free throws to help pad the lead.
The Ram-faithful cheered at the end when the home team walked off the court with the hard fought win.
"We really shot well in the second half (62 percent) and did a good job of taking care of the ball," noted Rasmussen. "Team play was the big difference in the game tonight. Sean had a great first half and really played like the experienced player he is. Omar did a great job coming off the bench and being ready to play."
Montrell Grimes and Demetrius McCray each added four points to round out the scoring for the Rams.
There is no rest for the Rams, though, as they head to Stephenson at 7 p.m. tonight to do battle for second place in the region. Both the Jaguars (10-5) and Rams sport 4-2 region records and are currently tied for second in Region 2-AAAAA. Newton then returns home Saturday night for the highly anticipated rematch with crosstown rival Eastside in a 6 p.m. tipoff.
Newton defeated the Eagles 53-48 in the first contest held at Eastside back on December 1.