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Mitchell steps up for Rams
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The Newton boys' basketball team ended its first trip around Region 2-AAAAAA and a rare losing streak Tuesday.

The Rams haven't lost five straight in coach Rick Rasmussen's tenure, and thanks to a 45-43 win in overtime, didn't set that precedent.

Newton began the season on a strong note with four straight wins, and later won five out of six, but struggled after the Christmas break. An overtime, 81-78, loss to Luella on Jan. 4, started the skid, which crept over to a non-region, rivalry loss at Eastside and then was followed by region losses at Rockdale and at home against Morrow.

As Newton traveled to Druid Hills, it looked like the slide would continue. The Rams let a six-point lead slip, in which points were left off the board at the free throw line. Druid Hills was able to turn it into a game and tie it on a layup at the buzzer that could have been called either a charge or a blocking foul but was not.

"We could have put it away but we did not make free throws down the stretch," Rasmussen said.
As four minutes were put on the clock for the overtime period, Rasmussen gathered his troops to try and keep them from continuing the streak. In his post-regulation speech, he told them not to feel sorry for themselves but to use the extra session as four more minutes to improve.

"I think there might have been some doubt creeping in there," Rasmussen said. "I reminded them to trust the game plan, keep buying in and believing. Every team goes through highs and lows in a long season and if we keep working hard, good things are going to happen."

In overtime, Rody Mitchel started things with a floater over 6-foot-8 Druid Hills center Clarence Williams. After two free throws by Druid Hills, Mitchell struck again stealing the ball from Williams on the break and hitting a layup to put the Rams back ahead by two.

Newton's defense, which has been its strong suit all season, struck again, this time with Rashard Cabane coming up with the steal and turning it into a bigger advantage that - despite missing two more free throws at the end of the game - the Rams would hold on to.

"We could have quit going into overtime," Rasmussen said. "I was really glad we got a ‘W' and hopefully we can build through that and get through the slide."

Mitchell stood out for the Rams with 19 points, two assists, two steals and four rebounds, giving the Rams, something they couldn't find during the four-game losing streak, a star player on the stat sheet.

"We finally had someone get hot," Rasmussen said. "Rody Mitchell played great, and he had struggled for a couple of weeks and he played the way we know he can play. We need someone to step up; somebody has to step up if we're going to get better."

Taylor Hawkins added eight points and kept Gardner-Webb committed point guard Deshon Burgess in check on the defensive end.

The Rams will stay on the road today at Lovejoy, which beat Newton 43-38 on Dec. 4.