Newton boys basketball coach Rick Rasmussen emerged from his office Wednesday night after his top-ranked Rams’ 91-64 win over cross-town rival Eastside holding a good-sized piece of birthday cake.
Sophomore point guard Ashton Hagans then emerged carrying two boxes of cupcakes topped with red icing.
“Take all you want,” Rasmussen told Hagans.
The veteran Newton coach celebrated a birthday on Tuesday — the same day his bunch went on the road to defeat an athletic Shiloh team 63-54 — hence the assortment of sweet treats filling the team’s locker room that the coach was distributing to his team.
So what’s better, coach? The wins or the cake?
Rasmussen will tell you that going 2-0 in the first pair of games in a six-games-in-eight-days stretch is the preferred birthday present.
“It’s all about the wins,” Rasmussen replied with a laugh. “Winning isn’t everything, but it sure is a lot more fun.”
Newton got its second win of the season against Eastside in a fashion that was just about as impressive as the first win, and with the win, the Rams improved to 15-0 ahead of Friday night’s trip to region foe Archer.
Isaiah Miller led the Rams with 24 points on a night where the 6-foot-1 senior showed off more of his shooting touch from behind the arc than his highlight reel leaping ability he’s become known for.
Miller nailed a pair of three-pointers in the first half after senior center Josh Tukes scored the Rams’ first six points — all of it helping Newton shake off a slow start. Eastside actually held a 7-6 lead early in the first quarter, thanks to a dunk from Dez Dyer and back-to-back scores from Keiodre Perry.
“We played two games in a row,” Rasmussen said. “We talked about it before the game, and I think with the legs, you’ve got guys just trying to get themselves going with jumpers rather thanking the extra pass early. I think we can be more disciplined to move the ball earlier.”
Miller didn’t have much issue getting himself started on the perimeter, however. After missing a couple of early free throws, his hot shooting gave him 13 first half points and helped Newton pull out to a 44-33 halftime advantage.
“Isaiah’s really been working a lot on his jumpsuit,” Rasmussen said. “He knows that’s an area he can improve in. I think he had a little bit of a slow start when he missed a few free throws early, then he settled in and had a good game shooting the ball. He’s been shooting it better in practice lately, so I thought it would be coming around.”
Rasmussen said he was pleased to see Miller show off other aspects of his offensive arsenal on a night when college coaches were in the stands watching.
“I think he just wanted to play well tonight,” Rasmussen said. “He had a coach from Miami-Ohio here, and they’re very interested, so I think he just wanted to play well. He’s a good player.”
Newton will have a short practice Thursday in an attempt to rest its legs before entering a stretch of four games in the next five days, starting with going to Archer Friday night and then traveling to Heritage-Newnan on Saturday.
The Rams will get a break on Sunday, and then be back in action Monday afternoon for a rematch with Zion Williamson and Spartanburg Day at the Blue Collar MLK Classic at Peachtree Ridge.
In addition to Miller’s hot shooting night, Newton got solid scoring from J.D. Notae who had 19 points, while Hagans chipped in with 14.
Des Dyer and Perry continued their strong play for Eastside, scoring 21 and 16 points respectively, despite the Eagles dropping to 10-6 with their fourth loss in the last six games.
The Eagles will be at home Friday for a region game against Druid Hills and then will travel to rematch Salem on Tuesday.
Lady Rams push past Eastside, ready for Archer
Lexii Chatman led three Newton players who scored in double figures with her game-high 14 points as the Lady Rams defeated Eastside 69-35.
Newton, now 11-2 and 3-0 in region play, quickly turned a decently close game in the first half into a route, as its shooters got hot from the outside and the defense clamped down. At one point Eastside only trailed 16-9 in the first part of the second quarter. But that’s when Asia Hyman got hot, hitting a trio of three-pointers in the second quarter, helping to provide Newton with a 32-19 lead at halftime.
Hyman finished with 12 points, as did freshman Je-Naya Smith who nailed a pair of threes of her own.
Coach Tiffani Johnson’s squad outscored the Lady Eagles 24-8 in the decisive third quarter that allowed Newton to pull away. And though she was glad for the win, she expressed concern about her squad’s consistency.
“I was hoping to get more intensity out of our press and I was hoping to see us move better than we did early,” Johnson said. “We started off slow, were able to maintain our lead, but I still see lapses in execution.”
Johnson said she was hoping for a more solid performance that could bolster team momentum as the Lady Rams travel to Archer (12-3, 3-0) for a battle that will give the winner temporary pole position in the Region 8-AAAAAAA race. Both teams are currently undefeated in region play.
“All of the region games are big, but (Archer) is our biggest region game,” she said. “Archer has a history of being successful. They are an experienced, well-coached team, and they’re a little bigger than we are. Our small size is always a challenge for us, but I think it will be a good matchup for us, and a good test to see if we can get it done.”