CARTERSVILLE - The Newton Rams boys basketball team has historically enjoyed great success at the Century Bank Holiday Hoopfest held at Cass High School.
After second place finishes in 2003 and 2004, the Rams won the title in 2005 and 2006.
"It is a very well run tournament," said Newton head coach Rick Rasmussen regarding the tournament. "They do a great job here and we get to play teams we don't normally see during the year."
That being said, the Rams tipped off Wednesday afternoon against a stubborn Duluth Wildcats team (2-8 overall, 0-5 Region 7-AAAAA). Newton continued its good play in the tournament by pulling away with a 77-57 victory, upping their record to 8-1 (2-1 Region 2-AAAAA).
"It was another night of balanced scoring," commented Rasmussen, "and we had a really good second half."
It truly was balanced scoring as four Rams tallied at least 16 points led by Sean Monk's 19, which included 9-of-10 from the free-throw line. Jamon Hawkins followed with 18, including four 3-pointers. Montrell Grimes reached double figures for the fourth game in a row with 16 points, matching center Tevin Bradley's total.
Meanwhile, Duluth was led by Antonio Falls who netted 15 points for the Wildcats.
The Rams came out quickly in the first quarter taking a 23-18 lead. Monk scored 10 of his points in the quarter, backed up by six from Bradley. But things didn't go quite so well in the second quarter for the boys in blue.
"Nothing seemed to go our way in that quarter," noted Rasmussen. "All of the bounces and calls seemed to go the other way, but we felt we were still in good shape at halftime. You have to give Duluth credit, though. They shot the ball really well in the first half (58 percent)."
Newton headed to the locker room down 35-31.
However, the second half would belong to the Rams as they came out firing on all cylinders. Hawkins would net 15 of his points in the half, including 10 in the third period.
"We really picked up our defensive intensity in the second half, which led to steals and turnovers," added Rasmussen. "We shot really well in the half, particularly in the fourth quarter. We also did a really good job of taking care of the ball (only six turnovers on the night). We placed extra emphasis in practice this week about not turning the ball over and it paid off. When we take care of the ball and shoot it well, we are a good basketball team."
Monk and Grimes would add nine and six respectively in the fourth quarter as the Rams ultimately pulled away.
"It was a good team effort," said Monk. "We started a little slow, but had a good second half."
Besides his 19 points, Monk also had eight rebounds, five assists and three steals.
"This is a very unselfish team," said Grimes, "We shared the ball really well tonight and found the open man in the second half."
Grimes added five boards, four assists and two steals.
"Montrell has done a great job and has really become one of our leaders," praised Rasmussen.
The tournament continued Thursday as the Rams took on Hillgrove of Powder Springs in the semi-finals. (Results were not available at press time).
Hillgrove reached the semis by pounding host Cass 80-59 on Wednesday night. The tournament finals will be held on Saturday night.