LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — There were a lot of variables that one could point to if you wanted to diagnosis the Newton Lady Rams’ 73-70 double overtime loss to Archer Saturday in the Region 8-AAAAAAA championship game.
But Newton girls coach Tiffani Johnson will boil it down to just two words.
“Free throws,” Johnson said. “All the free throws we missed, if we would’ve just made free throws in regulation, we’d be lifting up that trophy right now.”
As it was, the Lady Rams missed 10 free throws, including several chances at converting one-in-ones down the stretch. And despite a strong performance from Lexi Chatman, those miscues were more than Newton could overcome.
Another place where Johnson may look back at when searching for game turning points is the 6:53 mark in the fourth quarter. That’s when Demerika Mosley drilled a short baseline jumper to give Newton a 55-44 lead. That would end up being the last field goal Newton would score until Lexi Chatman scored a layup over the outstretched arms of Archer’s Autumn Newby to tie the game at 64 with 5.7 seconds left in the first overtime.
After Mosley’s bucket, Newton elected to play a little keep-away from Archer for about the next three minutes, but it eventually gave way to a 14-3 run by Archer to close out regulation in a 58-58 tie. And Johnson wouldn’t second guess her decision to pull back on the pace of the game
In the first overtime, Archer had a chance at a game winning shot but Asia Hyman blocked Newby’s shot from behind with just one second remaining in the first overtime.
In the second extra period, Newby opened with a three pointer, while a Jurnee Smith bucket at the 2:31 mark was the only field goal the Rams could muster down the stretch.
The Rams gave up a decided height advantage to Archer’s post players, 6-foot-3 Newby and 6-foot-2 Linsey Marchese which could’ve been a factor in why Newton tried to melt the clock a bit after grabbing that 11 point lead in the fourth quarter.
It appeared that Archer’s post players, at multiple times, were able to stay in the lane longer than a normal three-second count. But even after acknowledging those missed calls, Johnson still maintained that the game was Newton’s to win at the charity stripe.
“Those missed calls in the lane affected us a lot,” Johnson said. “We were banging, pushing back and doing all we can underneath, and for whatever reason we weren’t getting those calls. There were some over-the-back things missed. It was physical, and we didn’t get those (calls). But again, free throws was the name of the game tonight.”
And despite the pain of the loss, Johnson said she hopes it propels her girls to embrace what could still be attainable for them in the state tournament if they continue to compete in similar fashion.
“What I hope this (loss) does is show us that if we play at that level for these next five games in the state tournament, we’ll be playing for a long time,” Johnson said. “One good thing is we’ve got about a week to get over it and get back into the swing of things. If we can play at this level every game, and hit those free throws, we should be successful.”
Junior guard Lexi Chatman led the Lady Rams with 24 points, Jurnee Smith added 12 and Mosley chipped in with 10 in the loss to Archer. Newton will enter the state tourney as a No. 2 seed, and will host No. 3 seed Duluth at a day and time yet to be determined.