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Free throw woes end Newtons season
Newton surrendered a 20-1 run in the second quarter of its first-round playoff loss to North Cobb. - photo by Anthony Banks

After completing a perfect run through region competition, the Newton girls varsity basketball team ran into a buzz saw Friday night against visiting North Cobb in the opening round of the Class AAAAAA state tournament, dropping a 59-50 decision to the Lady Warriors.

The loss knocks Newton out of state tournament contention, while the Lady Warriors advance to the second round to take on Douglas County.

Sonia Forney led the Lady Rams with 13 points and senior guard Deandra Reed knocked down a trio of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, but Newton surrendered a 20-1 run in the second quarter and missed 13 free throws in the nine-point loss.

Newton coach Tiffani Johnson said that after the first quarter, the Lady Rams looked listless and disinterested and couldn’t find the sense of urgency needed to make a serious playoff run.

“We didn’t play like it was our last game,” Johnson said. “We played like we had an entire season in front of us. We just didn’t look like we wanted it. We go 12-0 in the region, win the region tournament and earn a home playoff game, but when it came down to it and something important was on the line, we shut down.

“We gave it away today,” she said.

Trailing by five entering the fourth quarter, Reed hit back-to-back treys to bring the Lady Rams within a single possession with 6:46 left in the game. North Cobb answered with a layup and a free throw, but a Precious Price mid-range jumper and another Reed 3-pointer from the left wing trimmed the Lady Warriors’ lead to 48-47 with less than three minutes remaining.

The one-point deficit was as close as the Lady Rams came to toppling North Cobb, as Newton struggled at the foul line. The Lady Rams went 2-of-7 from the free-throw stripe in the quarter, and North Cobb extended its lead back to six with a Chantel Strahorn 3-pointer and an Aniya Corley layup.

Newton failed to score from the floor in the final 1:41, and the Lady Warriors’ Kyrie’ Chandler knocked down six consecutive shots at the foul line in the final 67 seconds, icing the first- round win.

The Lady Rams led 17-11 after the first quarter, but managed just one point in the second period on a Forney free throw. North Cobb outscored Newton by 19 in the second quarter, knocking down six 3-pointers before halftime.
North Cobb’s 20-1 run allowed the Lady Warriors to carry a 31-18 lead into halftime.

Forney came out hot after the break, scoring Newton’s first six points of the third quarter, but Kristian Carter and Corley converted consecutive baskets, pushing North Cobb ahead by 14.

Strahorn added another North Cobb 3-pointer, but Newton ended the quarter on a 9-2 run, including a pair of scores from Traleea Jones, trimming the Lady Warriors’ lead to 43-35 entering the fourth.

North Cobb scored 27 of their 59 points from behind the arc, but Johnson said that it wasn’t the Lady Warriors’ hot shooting touch that did the Lady Rams in.

“I don’t think it was their outside shooting that hurt us too bad,” Johnson said. “They were hot in the first half, but cooled off in the second and we were still close. It had more to do with our effort, our turnovers and our free throws – those little things that we typically handle. Those are the little things that we’ve handled that have helped us win games. We didn’t do it tonight and we lost.”

Newton seemed poised for an easy first-round win after leading 17-11 in the first quarter, opening the game on a 7-3 run with baskets from Price and Forney. But, North Cobb rallied, cutting the lead to one on a Chandler layup and a Carter free throw.

Despite leading, Newton looked uncomfortable on the court, but pushed its lead to 13-6 on a Cynteria Langhorne layup on a feed from Reed.

Mercedes Booker and Langhorne added two more layups, part of Newton’s 12 points in the paint in the first quarter, giving Newton a 17-11 advantage after the first eight minutes.

Strahorn finished with 19 points, including five 3-pointers, in the win for the Lady Warriors, while Reed finished with nine for the Lady Rams.

Johnson said that if the Lady Rams take anything away from this season, she hopes they understand the effort it takes to be a “great team.”

“...I hope that they’ve learned the value of hard work,” she said. “Nothing is given to you. You have to work for everything you get.”

The Lady Rams finished the 2013-2014 season with a 21-7 overall record and a 12-0 mark in Region 2-AAAAAA.