A packed gymnasium at Peachtree Ridge High in Suwanee turned out in hopes of seeing a 32 minute highlight reel of one of the most ballyhooed high school basketball players in the nation.
What the crowd got, instead, was a look at one of the country’s best high school teams clicking on all cylinders.
Class AAAAAAA No. 1 Newton used a 32 point second quarter to build a lead as large as 25 points on its way to a 96-75 win over Spartanburg Day (South Carolina) during Monday’s Blue Collar MLK Classic.
Spartanburg Day boasts Zion Williamson, a 6-foot-7 junior who has drawn comparisons to Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James for his highlight reel athletic ability, despite his size. Williamson has become a social media sensation this season because of his penchant for high scoring performances and thunderous dunks.
But, save for a put-back slam on Spartanburg Day’s third offensive possession of the game, Williamson’s big play ability was limited, and the spotlight, instead, shifted to Newton’s big three of Isaiah Miller, J.D. Notae and Ashton Hagans.
“We told our players at the beginning that we’re not gonna let one guy be the show out here today,” said Newton coach Rick Rasmussen. “I said that our team is gonna be the show.”
And it was.
Encapsulated in that 32-point second quarter blitz was a 13-0 run in which Miller had a hand in nine of those points. Four points came off of two electrifying dunks, including a twisting reverse slam on a fast break.
Then Miller showed his shooting range when he buried a corner trey. On the next possession he served a sweet dish to Notae that set him up for a bucket.
The monster second quarter lifted Newton a 47-31 halftime advantage, and Spartanburg Day never really challenged again.
Miller finished with 29 points four assists and eight rebounds, while Notae scored 24 points, despite sitting out much of the third quarter after being hit in the mouth. Hagans turned in his second straight double-double with 16 points, 12 assists and seven boards.
Williamson finished with a game-high 31 points and 14 rebounds, but they were quiet stats, as Newton’s defense frustrated Williamson for most of the night.
“I think we broke his spirit earlier in the game this time than we did the last time,” Rasmussen said. “Last time, he was the show in the second quarter. This time we were. We just built an insurmountable lead. We smacked them in the mouth early and kept it going. It was amazing.
The win kept Newton perfect at 18-0 this season, ahead of hosting a rivalry game against Rockdale Tuesday night. It was also a nice answer to the national acclaim Newton received from entering the USA Today National Top 25 rankings this past week.
“I think these games do more for the other people who are watching our team than it does for us,” Rasmussen said. “It’s for the fans and the media. The size of these games means more to them. For us, it’s just an opportunity to showcase what we do and what we’re about.”
It was a game that also allowed Rasmussen to get some of his young guys in for valuable minutes on a big stage. He was particularly proud of the comprehensive play of the backcourt, and he mentioned 6-foot-4 sophomore Colby Rogers, who had eight points and five rebounds off the bench, as a rapidly emerging player.
“Colby’s going to be one who’s in demand next year,” he said. “It was nice for him to get a chance to get in and play the way he did. Really, all five of our guards played very well tonight. Darvin did his job. Like I said, Colby came off the bench. His confidence is growing.”
And so is Miller’s blip on the recruiting radar. Several college recruiters were in the building watching the 6-foot-1 senior’s dynamic exploits even as he’s fresh off receiving his second offer from Miami-Ohio.
“Isaiah really attacked the rim incredibly tonight,” Rasmussen said. “His stock continues to rise. He’s got Auburn coaches who were interested in him tonight.”
Even more impressive is the fact that Miller scored his 29 points in three quarters, as he was held scoreless during the first quarter when Spartanburg was still competitive.
Spartanburg took a 2-0 lead immediately after the jump ball on a Williamson dunk, but Newton’s Josh Tukes answered with a put-back basket off a miss to tie it on the next possession.
Tukes picked up two early first quarter fouls which limited his effectiveness defensively, but Notae, Hagans and senior guard Darvin Jones helped the Rams keep pace with Spartanburg early. First it was Notae on a dunk in transition that gave Newton it’s first lead at 8-7. After back-to-back Spartanburg buckets gave it an 11-8 lead, Jones buried a corner three to tie the ball game.
After another Spartanburg score put the Griffins up 13-11, two Hagans baskets gave Newton a 15-13 lead going into the second quarter,
That’s when the Newton show began.
Newton will tip off against Rockdale Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. It will then host region opponent South Gwinnett (9-5, 0-4) Friday night at 7:30 p.m.