For Newton boys basketball coach Rick Rasmussen, Friday night’s game against Archer wasn’t as much about the pomp and circumstance surrounding senior night or even the opponent, as it was getting the bitter taste of defeat out of his and his team’s mouths and finding momentum for this week's region tournament.
The Rams did that with a 75-44 win over the Tigers during Friday’s senior night.
“We’ve been telling them all week it would be special, and we’re proud of them,” Rasmussen said. “I think our team had a great bounce back (Friday night). (Winning) was more important for us, especially coming off a loss. It wasn’t about who we were playing as much as how we were going to play, how we’d respond, seeing what we were made of And seeing if we were going to put our hard hats back on and go to work.”
The Rams got a very workmanlike performance out of sophomore point guard Ashton Hagans who had a team-high 14 points to pace the Rams. He was one of four Newton players to score in double figures against Archer. Senior Darvin Jones scored 13, while fellow seniors Isaiah Miller and J.D. Notae had 12 points apiece.
Jones was hit some big shots early in the first half to help boost Newton on a run early. His three-pointers at the 4:47 mark and 2:54 mark in the first period helped Newton run up a 24-11 advantage going into the second quarter.
“I think it helped us to have Darvin back,” Rasmussen said. “I really do think he made a big difference. He and Josh are glue guys and veterans. Those two are the only two varsity players who have played on varsity all four years, so it was great to get him back and exciting to see him shoot well early.”
By virtue of Newton’s win, which improved the Rams to 24-1 overall and 8-1 in Region 8-AAAAAAA, Rasmussen’s squad finished the season atop the region standings, and will get a first round bye in the Region 8-AAAAAAA tournament which begins Thursday at Archer High. Newton will play its first game on Friday evening at 8:30 p.m.
Before that, Rasmussen said he’s going to give his team’s legs some time to recover.
“We’re going to take the next couple of days off, and then practice four days to get ready for the region tournament,” he said. “That’s our focus now.”
Lady Rams lose heartbreaker to Archer
Newton girls basketball coach Tiffani Johnson said she's gearing her team up to focus on winning the region tournament, and won’t blame the Lady Rams' Friday night loss to Archer on an unfortunate no-call toward the end of the game.
With less than 10 seconds left in a tie game, an Archer player attempted to inbound the ball from under Newton’s basket. The ball bounced off the side of the back side of the backboard which should’ve resulted in an Archer turnover, giving Newton possession with a chance for a go-ahead basket.
Instead, the no-call allowed play to continue, and the Lady Tigers sank one of two free throws with 4.9 seconds left in regulation, giving them a 51-50 victory over Newton.
“Yeah, that call was unfortunate, but at the same time we could’ve made some free throws to nullify that,” Johnson said. “I’m not gonna put it on that. We had mental lapses, but effort wise, I was 98 percent pleased with our effort. The loss still gives a bad taste, but it’s not as bitter, when you know your team did their best out there.”
The two teams came into the senior night matchup with identical 19-4 and 7-1 records. The two teams split the season series, each winning on the road, but Friday night’s Newton loss dropped it to the second place spot in the region standings.
That No. 2 finish is still good enough for a first round bye in the Region 8-AAAAAAA tournament which begins Thursday at Archer. And it’s that part of the season which Johnson now chooses to focus on.
“The regular season doesn’t matter now,” Johnson said. “A 1-24 team is in the same place as a 24-1 team now. So you can shake everything off and go back to the lab on Monday, tweak the things that need to be tweaked and get ready for this new season.”
There’s a chance Newton can see Archer in the region tournament championship again. Both teams will have a bye from Thursday night action, with Newton playing at 4:30 p.m. on Friday.
Junior Lexii Chatman paced the Lady Rams with a team-high 17 points.