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Newton County reigns supreme
Newton County sweeps senior all-star festivities
Keion Sims drives to the basket for Newton County during the second half of the Newton/Rockdale County Senior All-Star game. Sims finished with a team-high 18 points. - photo by Matt Smith

In a hardwood battle between Newton County and Rockdale County’s best Thursday night, Newton County reigned supreme, sweeping the Newton/Rockdale County Senior All-Star Game festivities.

The Newton County girls all-stars kicked off the competition with an 89-65 victory over Rockdale County before the Newton County boys breezed their way to a 101-80.

Despite leading all scorers with 22 points and 19 rebounds, Jennifer Tindi was unable to help the Rockdale County girls keep pace with Newton in the second half, surrendering 46 points in the final 20 minutes.

Rockdale County's Kristopher Bridgeman also paced the boys with 22 points, but Newton used a late surge over the last 10 minutes of the contest for the 21-point win.

Newton’s Brandon Lybrand and Precious Price picked up the individual 3-point shooting competition titles, while the Rams’ Jalen Glover completed the pre-game festivities sweep, claiming the dunk championship over Salem’s Demyon Greenwood.

Newton girls victorious

In the girls opening contest, the Newton County squad led by as many as 24 points in the opening half, but had to hold off Rockdale County late in the second quarter.

Trailing 43-32 heading into the second half, Rockdale battled back with a 22-10 opening run, claiming its first lead of the game.

Tindi and Shebreta Alexander scored five and four points during the run, respectively, and Taylor King pushed Rockdale ahead 54-53 with 12:38 remaining with a 3-pointer.

Rockdale and Newton traded baskets, but with 10:35 left in the game, Newton’s DeAndra Reed jump started a 12-4 Newton run, connecting on a 3-pointer from the left wing. Price added another Newton score on a layup and Reed connected again from behind the arc, reclaiming the lead for Newton. When the run ended on a Shay Lawrence layup, Newton held a 64-59 with 8:49 to go.

Newton’s defense held Rockdale to five points over the final eight minutes of action, giving up a layup to Tindi and three free throws. Newton continued its rapid scoring run as Reed knocked down two more 3-pointers and Sonia Forney added a pair of baskets in the paint. Newton closed the game on a 9-0 run, clinching the 82-64 victory.

“I told the girls after Rockdale made its comeback that we don’t like to lose over here,” Newton County coach Tiffani Johnson said. “We hunkered down and won a competitive ball game. We really wanted to win this game and turned on the defense at the end to secure it.”

Newton and Rockdale traded baskets in the opening two minutes, but a 27-4 Newton run put the Rockdale squad down by 24.

Lawrence led all Newton scorers in the first half with nine, while Jymara Smith and Price chipped in eight each, helping Newton to a 33-9 lead.

Rockdale’s Casera Howard 3-pointer ended Rockdale’s drought, pulling Rockdale to within 12.

Newton’s hot hand went cold with eight minutes to go in the first half and Rockdale took advantage, scoring eight straight after Howard’s basket. Tamara Sanders and Tindi hit back-to-back baskets before Brianna Patton added a layup down low, cutting Newton’s once insurmountable lead to 33-20.

Newton ended the half on a short 8-5 run, closing the half on a Lawrence 3-pointer.

Patton joined Tindi in double figures for Rockdale with 11 points, while Reed capped off her night with 20 points, including 17 in the second half. Lawrence, Price and Forney also finished with double-digit scoring nights with 12, 13 and 14 points, respectively.

“We just got tired after the comeback,” Rockdale County coach Rochone Dilligard said. “We really put forth a good effort and fought back hard to cut their lead down. They recognized what Newton was doing defensively and put a lot of effort into the game on the offensive end of the court. We were aggressive during that stretch – we just couldn’t hold that aggression for 40 minutes.”

Second-half push

In the late contest, the Newton County boys team used a late offensive push in the final 15 minutes in a 101-80 victory over Rockdale County.

Leading by just two with six minutes gone in the second quarter, Newton outscored Rockdale 47-28, using an 18-2 run to bury their cross county rivals.

Alcovy’s Greg Giles and Jalen Johnson pitched in four points apiece during the run and Treyvon Francis added a jumper, giving Newton a 71-56 lead with 8:49 to go in the game.

Rockdale trimmed the lead to 14 after Newton grew its advantage to as much as 18 points, slicing Newton’s lead on an Erik McIver old-fashioned 3-point play.

Both teams traded baskets until Rockdale went into another scoring drought. Newton responded with a quick 4-0 spurt with a pair of layups from Keion Sims and Taylor Hawkins, but Salem’s Kristopher Bridgeman, who finished with 12 points in the second half, scored back-to-back baskets, bringing Rockdale back to within 14.

Rockdale ran out of gas in the final two minutes and Anthony Henderson drained the century-mark breaking 3-pointer with 10 seconds left in the game, securing the 21-point victory.

“I thought the game tonight was a lot of fun and it was great to unite the county schools that are usually facing one another as rivals,” Newton County coach Rick Rasmussen said. “We played really well in the second half and made the extra passes. That increased the tempo and we were able to wear them down from there.”

Newton trailed at the break 41-38, but opened the second half with four consecutive 3-pointer. Henderson and Newton’s Jalen Glover knocked two shots from beyond the arc apiece during the opening run, pulling Rockdale out of its 2-3 zone that slowed Newton’s offense in the first half.

Bridgeman’s 10 first-half points helped Rockdale build a five-point first quarter lead, but Rockdale had to fight for it.

Trailing 7-4 to start the game, Newton found its 3-point range, as Caylen Gooch, Hawkins and Francis connected on consecutive 3-pointers, erasing Rockdale’s early lead.

Newton and Rockdale traded buckets until the 3:49 mark when Rockdale converted back-to-back scores. David Noble and Darryl Tucker knocked down baskets, giving Rockdale a 33-30 advantage, and Rockdale played Newton even over the final three minutes, carrying a 3-point lead into halftime.

Sims finished as Newton’s leading scorer with 18 points, while Henderson and Francis added 17 apiece. Glover also finished in double figures with 13 second-half points, while Rockdale’s Quintavious Byrd and Robert Baker pitched in 13 points each in the loss.

“Tonight was a great end-of-the-year activity for the guys and it was great to see Rockdale County and Newton County basketball come together for a game,” Rockdale County coach Ralph Denmark said. “The guys put in a lot of effort tonight and were able to showcase what they can do when they come together.”

Rams sweep

In the pre-game competitions, Lybrand and Price took home the event’s 3-point shooting titles, while Glover earned top dunking accolades.

Lybrand reached the boys 3-point shooting final with 10 points in the opening round, facing off against Salem’s Bridgeman and Byrd in the finals.

In the finals, Bridgeman led off with seven points while Lybrand finished with eight, setting up a solo-shooting round for Byrd with the title on the line. Byrd connected for six points before his final shot, worth two points, went up, but Byrd’s shot missed the mark, securing the title for Lybrand.

Price also led the girls’ 3-point shooting competition throughout, tying Rockdale’s Howard with eight points in the opening round for a shot at the title in the finals.

Going one-on-one in the final round, Price edged Howard 11-10, connecting on her title-clinching shot at the buzzer.

In the dunk competition, Glover and Salem’s Greenwood advanced to the finals with the two highest scores in the opening round, throwing down dunks that secured scores of 49 and 46 points, respectively.

In the finals, Glover used a 360 dunk to wow the crowd, garnering a score of 46 from the judges, before Greenwood attempted his final dunk. With a minute to out shine Glover, Greendwood was unable to complete his dunk that began with a pass from a teammate from the gym’s upper level, and Glover was named the 2013 Senior All-Star dunk champion.