The Newton girls varsity basketball team made history Saturday night, giving coach Tiffani Johnson her first perfect 12-0 region season as the Lady Rams’ head coach.
Newton had to hold off an unrelenting Luella squad for a 68-56 win, using 21 points from senior Precious Price to tame the Lions on Senior Night.
Cynteria Langhorne added 10 in the win, and Newton’s defense held Luella to just six points in the fourth quarter after leading by only two heading into the final period of play.
“At the end of the day, we got the win,” Johnson said. “We played through everything and closed it out. To go 12-0, I’ve never done that as a player, so to do that as a coach is just as satisfying. I know the girls are happy.”
Newton led 52-50 entering the fourth quarter and Luella cut the lead to one with a free throw on their opening possession. However, Sade Jacobs’ make from the charity stripe brought the Lady Lions as close as they would come to Newton’s lead, as the Lady Rams opened up a five-point lead with four minutes remaining.
Imani Broadnax converted a layup to give the Lady Rams a little breathing room, and Deandra Reed sank a 3-pointer from the left wing, pushing Newton ahead 57-52.
Luella hit another pair at the line, part of a 4-of-6 performance from the charity stripe in the quarter, but Newton answered, scoring back-to-back on a Price layup and two foul shots from Langhorne.
The Lady Lions scored again on a Brianna Moore put-back with 2:25 to go, bringing the score within five once again, but the basket was the last for Luella, which went scoreless in the waning minutes.
Newton went on a 7-0 run to end the contest, going 5-of-7 from the free-throw line in the final two minutes to clinch the win.
The Lady Lions outscored Newton 18-17 in the third quarter behind eight points from Jacobs, trimming Newton’s lead to three with 3:10 left in the period. Price responded with a left-handed finger roll and a 3-pointer, pushing Newton’s lead back to four before Luella ended the period on a 4-2 run.
Newton led by as many as 13 in the first half, but a Luella 8-0 run at the end of the first half sent the Lady Rams into halftime ahead 35-32.
Newton took a 32-19 advantage in the second quarter, in which both teams combined to shoot 24 free throws in the period. Luella went 9-of-14 from the line, trimming Newton’s lead to just three at halftime. The Lady Lions went 5-of-6 from the free-throw line in the final 2:17 and scores on a Kristina Stewart three-pointer and a Dionna Thomas layup brought Newton’s once -seemingly insurmountable lead down to single digits. The Lady Rams led 16-13 after the first quarter behind five points from Price and Booker.
Thomas and Jacobs led Luella with 16 points each.
Newton returns to action Friday in the second round of the region tournament at 7 p.m. at home.