Newton boys’ basketball was dominant from start to finish on the team’s way to a championship victory, defeating Thompson 72-50 in the Yuletide Classic in at Wallace State in Hanceville, Alabama. Janaud “JD” Notae was named tournament MVP after scoring 25 points in the final contest and averaging 21 points per game throughout the tournament. Sophomore DeAndrae Butler, who averaged a double-double in the Classic, along with Notae was named to the All-Tournament Team.
“It was a great experience for us,” Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen said it was good for the boys to go on the road, bond, build trust and camaraderie. He wanted to play teams outside of the Atlanta area and the Rams were successful in bringing home the championship.
Newton’s first of three games in the tourney was against Winfield, ranked fifth in AAA, and the toughest team the Rams faced in Alabama.
Newton led from start to finish, but let Winfield hang around through halftime. However, in the second half the Rams stepped on the gas and outscored Winfield 22-12 in the third quarter and dominated every minute on the court from then until they were crowned champions.
“From there really, nobody could match us in the tournament,” Rasmussen said. “I think it was kind of clear to everybody that we were the team to beat. I felt like we built some confidence from that.”
Rasmussen says his starters played extremely well in the Yuletide Classic. Junior center Josh Tukes finished the championship game with eight blocks, Jaquan Simms was in double figures every game and Hagans had a 14-assist championship game.
“One of the combinations that really stuck out was Ashton and Dre Butler. They really made a ton of connections,” Rasmussen said. “The All-Tournament Team, they didn’t give us three players. It was voted on by other people, but I thought Ashton could’ve been considered for All-Tournament, but they only gave us two players. Dre Butler really did excel because Ashton got him the ball down low and Dre averaged a double-double and a lot of it was feeding off of Ashton’s great passing to him.”
Rasmussen adds that he believes his team improved in its man-to-man full-court pressure defense with this tournament.
“We totally want to take the momentum from this. We’ve talked about there are championships that you can win in a season for us, Christmas tournament championship of eight teams which we’ve now done, a region championship and then compete for a state championship,” Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen knows he and his team let Tucker steal a win from them in the Tigers’ one-point victory over Newton at Tucker. He’s chomping at the bit to play them again.
“We want to win the region championship really, really badly,” Rasmussen said. “We know that we missed some free throws at Tucker and lost by one on a tip-in and that’s making us more and more hungry. We’re excited about getting into region play in January, starting with Lovejoy at home on Tuesday.”
Tucker isn’t the only team Newton has painted a target on. There’s also Rockdale, who Newton will play on Friday at Rockdale. The Bulldogs beat Newton twice last year and Rasmussen is anxious to get a shot at them this year.
“We want to get Rockdale and Tucker as bad as anybody,” he said.
As some bring in the New Year with church, prayer, fun and/or family, the Rams brought it in with a championship. Not a bad way to end the year.