For the first time this season, Newton (13-3, 1-3 Region 2-AAAAAA) lost its second-straight game. The fact that this is the first time they’ve lost consecutive games all season is a remarkable feat, but is this a trend for the Rams or just a blip in the radar?
Newton lost 39-37 to Lovejoy on Tuesday and got blasted by rival Rockdale County on Friday (61-51, but the Bulldogs led by 20 in the fourth at one point). The Rams started off the season playing tremendously well and now that region play has started it seems the Rams aren’t quite as good as we thought they were. Or are they?
Well it depends on how good you thought they were. The team has talent and their system allows them to stay in most games, but Rockdale and Tucker both exposed Newton’s fatal flaw – transition defense.
Now that’s not to say that the Rams don’t have a good defense, they do, but their half-court defense makes their transition-d a weak spot.
“Really I think the difference in the game was the fast-break points,” Rick Rasmussen, Newton coach said. “I think if you go back and watch the film, the twos, the uncontested layups in transition I thought were the difference in the game.”
“I thought the way they basically cherry-picked and left early and we didn’t go with them, we gave up numerous uncontested layups,” he added.
Newton’s problems with its transition defense are fixable, and Ras has a solution for the next time they play Rockdale on January 30 toward the end of the regular season.
“I think we gotta send two guys back next time,” Rasmussen said. “Have two guys on top ready to get back and like I said if we’re on offense watching from the top and we’re not getting the rebound, and they see that they’re gonna get it and they run and we’re still watching then it’s a one-on-zero.”
Both Rockdale and Tucker have quick, taller athletic guys that leak out in transition to get easy baskets at the other end, which has been Newton’s kryptonite in at least two of the three games they’ve lost. But Newton will get the chance to correct those mistakes when they travel to play both teams within the next couple of weeks.
With Rasmussen at the helm, the Rams will likely always have a more fundamentally sound team than any other team they share the court with. Athleticism versus fundamentals is a battle Newton will fight in most of its games, and usually fundamentals win, but only when they’re executed perfectly.
In the games against Tucker and Rockdale Newton turned the ball over and gave up points in transition. Offensively, Newton will take the smart open jumper, but missed threes sometimes turn into long rebounds for the opposition which sometimes turn into fast-break points.
When Newton executes it slow-paced offense, prevents turnovers and plays defense at the level they’re capable of, they can compete with some of the best teams in the state. When they don’t do those things, and they play against a team with the level of athleticism of a Rockdale or Tucker they’ll struggle.
It’s too early to write Newton off, the Rams have their issues but they’re fixable. Every team has issues and Newton wasn’t at full health against Tucker or Rockdale. The Rams missed Josh Tukes against Tucker and Antonio Smith against Rockdale. At full strength, playing Rams basketball, Newton shouldn’t have any problems turning its season around.