Newton boys basketball (4-1, 1-0 Region 2-AAAAAA) engineered yet another blowout on its way to an 82-40 win over North Oconee. The Lady Rams (6-0, 1-0 Region 2-AAAAAA) were up and down throughout the game against North Oconee, but they outscored the Lady Titans, 27-21 in the final frame to earn the 64-58 victory.
Deandrae Butler scored Newton’s first basket and the Rams jumped out to an early 9-2 lead.
Ashton Hagans found Butler on the break and Butler slammed it home over a helpless North Oconee defender extending the lead to 11-2 before a breakaway layup from JD Notae gave Newton a 13-2 lead.
After a Hagans steal and layup, Dante Johnson got to the basket and converted a three-point play which put the score at 20-7, Newton.
The Rams finished the opening period up 23-8. The defense and Newton’s ability to get out and score on the break were a big reason why the Rams had a 15-point lead.
“I thought our hands were in the passing lanes. We cut off some angles and we did a really good job jumping it on traps. They didn’t get any fastbreak points until our reserves were in and they didn’t have any fast break points at all until the second half. We did a really solid job defensively,” Rick Rasmussen, Newton head coach, said.
Hagans shaked and baked his way into a layup plus the foul to open the scoring for Newton. Then Johnson hit a Titan defender with a cross and found Wendell Lee for a wide open layup to make it 29-8, Newton.
Hagans had a dunk of his own midway through the period off a pass from Johnson to give Newton a 25-point lead (33-8).
With mostly reserves in, outside of Notae, with under three minutes to go in the second quarter the Rams worked the clock and played pressure defense.
A steal and dunk at the end of the first half by Marvin Boireau that put the Rams up 44-16 punctuated a stellar first half by Newton.
Johnson opened the second half with a steal and a pass to Notae who hit Hagans for the layup on the three-on-one break.
A Colby Rogers three gave Newton a 35-point lead after a Titan score.
The Rams ended the third quarter up 64-30 invoking the mercy rule to set the fourth quarter clock to begin with six minutes left instead of the usual eight.
The Rams won easily, with the 82-40 victory at home.
Hagans posted a career-high 21 points to go along with eight assists while Notae and Rogers added 12 a piece. Rasmussen praised Hagans’ control of the game as a freshman.
“He’s taking it to another level. He’s getting used to the guys and it’s really fun to see him develop and grow. He’s got a long ways to go, but it’s really fun to see him,”
Johnson only finished with 8 points, but he was a force on the court grabbing rebounds and pushing the ball to start the fast break, also making a few nice passes to set up his teammates.
“He’s made us deeper. Especially with Darvin [Jones] out it’s nice to have Dante back from football. He’s very physical, he got a ton of rebounds and he’s great to the basket. He’s getting his legs under him on his jumper, but he was a big factor. He gave us a spark as a starter,” Rasmussen said.
Lady Rams head coach Tiffani Johnson went with a different starting lineup against North Oconee, sitting her top three players - Alexcia Chatman, Imani Broadnax and Jurnee Smith. Johnson said before the season that because her team had so much depth she would tinker with the lineups to figure out what works and this lineup featuring Takiya Cotton, Jamiya Boykin, Traleea Jones, Kayana Henderson and Kalia Smith was the result of the tinkering.
“Just trying to see what type of energy another group can give us and just experimenting with lineups, attitudes and flow of the game with a different group in. Nothing personal, nobody did anything wrong just changing it up,” Johnson said.
The lineup change however had the Lady Rams trailing 8-4 midway through the first and in came the “big three” one-by-one.
Newton finished the quarter on a 13-4 run with all 13 points coming from Chatman (8), Jurnee (2) and Broadnax who hit a three at the buzzer.
The offense went stagnant to begin the second quarter. North Oconee reeled off an 8-0 run in the first four-and-a-half minutes of the period. The Lady Rams didn't score until Broadnax found Kalia in the paint for the bucket and the foul to tie the game at 20.
“We’re still working some things out. It’s our fifth game in and we’re still getting movement and chemistry together on the floor,” Johnson said of her team’s offensive woes. “That’s one of the things we’re working on. We get shy when the lights come on for some reason, but that’s one of the things we’re working on.”
North Oconee began to play well offensively against Newton’s 1-1-3 zone defense. They made the extra pass to take a 24-20 lead with one minute to go in the second despite three blocks in the paint by Kalia in a one minute span.
Henderson connected on two free throws and found Kalia at the basket to tie the game at 24 at halftime.
In the third frame it seemed North Oconee had found the weak spot in Newton’s zone and attacked it. They'd find the open player in the right corner wait for the double and hit the open post player. It led to an early 30-28 lead in the third quarter.
The Lady Rams would make the adjustment on defense. They timed the double team perfectly or just didn't double at all and forced the pass. It took a contested three from the Lady Titans to give North Oconee a 33-28 lead which was extended to 35-28 after a steal/layup.
The third quarter saw a lot of fouls called in North Oconee’s favor that drew the ire of fans. Johnson was given a warning by a referee for “arguing” a call.
Jurnee found Kalia on a cut to the basket for an easy layup at the 1:50 mark of the third quarter to break Newton’s scoreless streak. After a Lady Titan turnover, Jurnee hit two free throws to make it 35-32, Lady Titans.
A free throw from Newton had the game tied at 37 to end the third.
Jones hit a basket early in the fourth to tie the game at 39. Another Newton bucket and a three from Chatman off of a steal and pass from the feisty Cotton and the Lady Rams led 44-39.
Cotton went one of two from the line and Chatman hit another three with a hand in her face that extended Newton’s lead to eight points (50-42) with over four minutes to play.
The closest North Oconee would get was within six points but the Lady Rams went on to win 64-58.
“Just playing Lady Rams basketball. We were the more talented, the faster team in there, but the other team at that point and time was giving better effort and they were winning the loose ball battle and winning the rebound battle. We just had a conversation in the timeout about doing the things we’re supposed to do and at the end of the day, talent or no talent, we don’t get out hustled. So we had to pick up our intensity and pick up our energy and that helped us seal the deal with the game,” Johnson said.
Chatman led the team in scoring with 20 points, 12 of which came in the final quarter. Right behind her was Kalia who scored 14 points.