The Stephenson Jaguars will not shed any tears when the new region alignments go into effect next basketball season. For the eighth straight time, Newton came away with a win after a 67-44 drubbing Friday.
In the opener, Newton’s girls nearly pulled off the upset before falling 41-38 late.
Stephen Croone set the tone early, hitting a 3-pointer to open the game and the Rams started the game with a 10-0 run and never looked back.
“It was another fun night. We really got off to a good start. I thought it was big to hit those first few shots. Stephen (Croone) hit that first 3-pointer, and when he gets hot he can really put a string together quickly.”
Croone hit another three in the first quarter as did Jalen Glover and the Rams held a 15-8 lead at the end of the period. Croone finished with a game-high 25 points and is averaging a shade under 22 per game.
The Rams continued to build on their lead and went to halftime up 31-14. The onslaught continued in the third quarter as Newton scored inside and outside and built their lead to 21 at 53-32.
With the game safely in hand, Rasmussen was able to clear his bench and give everyone some playing time.
“Our reserves really played well and actually increased the lead,” noted Rasmussen. “Kishon Rogers, Taylor Hawkins, Gates (6 rebounds) and Jamir Davis all did a good job when they were in there.”
The Rams received solid contributions from all their starters. Croone led all scorers with 25 points including five 3-pointers. Two of those ended up being 4-point plays as he was fouled while making the shot and then knocked down the free throw. Croone also had five rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks.
Center Shane Henry and forward Rashard Cabane each flirted with a double-doubles. Henry netted eight points and 12 rebounds, while Cabane notched nine points and 11 boards.
JT Thompson nearly hit double figures with nine points to go along with six assists and three rebounds. Jalen Glover added seven points and grabbed three boards.
Newton outrebounded Stephenson by a 41-22 margin. The Rams shot 45 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the 3-point line while holding the Jaguars to 31 percent and only 27 percent from beyond the arc.
Newton’s defense was able to put the clamps on Stephenson’s leading scorer Derek Harper, holding him to 15 points with the bulk of those coming late.
The Rams improved their record to 15-5 (7-3 Region 2-AAAAA) and maintained their spot in second place in the region.
“We picked a good time to get hot,” added Rasmussen. “We feel like we are playing as well as anyone in the region as we pursue our third straight region championship. We need to keep it going and not rest on our laurels.”
The eighth-ranked Stephenson came into their game with the Lady Rams averaging better than 60 points per game. They had not scored less than 53 points in any home game or region game this season. That changed Friday as Newton was able to hold them to only 41 points. However, that was just enough as Stephenson held on for a 41-38 win.
Newton Head coach Tiffani Johnson was disappointed with the loss, but pleased with the effort from her team.
“We played great defense the whole game,” she said. “We had the lead until late in the fourth. Danyel [Fourney] did a good job inside again tonight. Turnovers and missed boxouts hurt us.”
Newton started well and managed a 10-8 lead at the end of the first quarter. They extended that lead in the second to four points and went to half time up 21-17.
The first half was pretty much all Fourney as she scored 12 of her team-high 14 points in the first two quarters.
The Lady Rams continued their strong play in the third and led by five points heading into the final quarter. Precious Price hit a big 3-pointer in the quarter and Tai Avery came off the bench to score four.
Through three quarters the Lady Rams did a great job of breaking Stephenson’s press and forcing them to shoot outside shots on the defensive end. In the fourth the Lady Jaguars were able to get inside and built a five-point lead.
Newton cut the lead to three and got the ball back with 17 seconds to go when Emili Russ dove on a loose ball and alertly called timeout. The Lady Rams worked to ball around and got it to Mikola Burks who had a great look on a 3-point shot, only to have it fail to go in. Burks finished the night with eight points as did Price.
The loss dropped the Lady Rams to 15-5 (6-4).
“We showed tonight that we can compete with anyone,” Johnson said.