Not one, but two fourth quarter collapses for Newton basketball (girls and boys) against rival Rockdale highlighted what was supposed to be a joyous senior night for the Newton basketball players, but ended in dismay as Rockdale shocked the world (two counties) twice.
First, after being up by two points with under five minutes to play, the Lady Rams collapsed and fell to the Lady Bulldogs 58-51 and the boys faltered after an 11-point lead in the fourth, losing to Rockdale 52-50.
“The inexperience showed tonight,”Rams’ Coach Rick Rasmussen said after the game. “The lack of experience, continuing to do the same thing that doesn’t work over and over, you don’t need to force it at the end of the game. We gave it to ‘em.”
An electric crowd surrounded the Newton gym anticipating every score of the contest, which meant more for Newton in its hopes of securing the No. 1 seed in the region tournament than it did for Rockdale.
The game started with a forced three from JD Notae. Newton and Rockdale traded missed shots on their opening possessions. Ashton Hagans was first on the board with a bucket at the rim.
Both offenses, however, remained ineffective in a low scoring first quarter. It was 8-7 with 1:30 left to play after Rockdale’s Jalen Jordan was left alone in the corner for a triple by Hagans. Hagans would make up for his mistake, getting to the rim and scoring for Newton on the following possession to go up 10-7.
Newton ended the first up 11-9. Not exactly how the at-capacity crowd expected the game to play out early. Notae and Jaquan Simms scored back-to-back buckets for Newton and forced a timeout by Rockdale.
After the timeout Rockdale scored four straight and baited Hagans into a charge for a turnover. Another Bulldog basket and the game was tied. Josh Tukes rebounded his own miss and scored to give the Rams a 17-15 lead.
Two trips to the free throw line and a basket later and the Bulldogs led Newton 21-19. The Rams tied the game and then took the lead after Dante Johnson knocked down one of two free throws. The Rams took a 23-21 lead into halftime.
In the third, the offenses continued to struggle. Hagans gave Newton a five-point lead with a shot from beyond the arc, but Rockdale stayed with Newton, answering with a layup.
The Rams were able to create some room following a Hagans and-one to go up 37-27 with just over two minutes left in the third. Hagans was unusually aggressive and it was a huge boost for Newton.
Hagans would find Simms for three and followed it up with a block on the defensive end with Newton leading 40-28. Notae, who struggled with his shot throughout the game, found Tukes wide open underneath the basket and the score made it 42-30, Rams’ lead, heading into the fourth.
A triple from Jordan got the Bulldogs within eight and a bucket in transition off a Newton miss made it 44-38, Newton.Newton went on a 6-1 run punctuated by a steal and two-handed flush by Notae off a full-court pass from Hagans.
And then the madness ensued.
Fans were leaving as Newton’s boys were leading Rockdale 50-39 with under four minutes to play, but by the time any of them got to their cars if they didn’t turn around before then, Rockdale was within one possession with just more than two minutes left.
A dormant Rockdale offense was awakened when the Bulldogs went on a 9-0 run thanks to three triples, once from Ray Washington and two from Jordan that got the crowd into a frenzy.
With 2:02 left to play, the Bulldogs found themselves down 50-48 with a chance to ruin the Rams’ shot at a No. 1 seed. Newton smartly wasted valuable time off the clock on its ensuing possession out of the timeout, but it wasn’t enough time and Hagans couldn't get the open step-back trey to fall.
The Bulldogs’ Brian Jessie tied the game with a putback, as the Bulldog fans screamed with joy. Hagans found Simms on the left side of the court for a three-point attempt to give Newton a lead, but it rimmed out and the game was tied at 50 with 25.8 seconds left.
Rockdale ran some action the left side of the court that ended with an open Washington getting the ball at the free throw line and getting into the lane to hit a floater and take a 52-50 lead that erupted the Rockdale crowd.
With 13 seconds left, Rasmussen called a timeout to give his team a chance to tie or win. The Rams went for the win and Notae got a good look from beyond the arc, but couldn't get it to fall and the deed was done.
“I thought our whole team struggled offensively,” Rasmussen said. “I didn’t think we played under control, I thought we shot a little too quickly even though we got some things out of it at the end of the day you have to learn and know game situations and slow down when we need to and we just didn’t do it.”
“This is a big moment, we can learn from this and stick together or you could try to place blame and not learn from it, so what we want to do is use this as a learning situation and learn from it so that we can finish off games in the region tournament and the state tournament,” Rasmussen added.
Newton travels to play Lakeside on the road on Tuesday, and with a win the Rams can clinch the No. 2 seed.