It took three overtimes and some clutch shooting by a sometimes unsung senior hero and an emerging sophomore for the Newton Rams to gut out an 89-83 win over the defending Class AAAAAA state champion Westlake Lions Thursday night in a packed Newton High gym.
J.D. Notae led the top-ranked Rams with 24 points, and fellow senior Isaiah Miller added 21, but it was senior sharp shooter Darvin Jones and sophomore Colby Rogers who helped seal the deal in the game’s most pivotal moments.
And there were plenty.
After sophomore point guard Ashton Hagans failed to win the game in the first overtime with a missed jump shot, Miller had a chance to close it out in the second overtime when he drove the lane, spun and tried to lay the ball in over the outstretched hands of Westlake’s 6-foot-8 Auburn commit Chuma Okeke.
Jones started the scoring in the third overtime with a nifty reverse layup to make the score 85-83. Newton benefited from quick hands on defense as it forced Westlake into several turnovers in the third overtime. The Lions were shutout in the final four minutes after Okeke uncharacteristically missed two free throws at the 2:01 mark.
With an 85-83 lead, Newton settled in to play keep-away from the Lions. That’s when Rogers was fouled on back to back possessions. The sophomore reserve hit all four of his free throws to preserve the win.
The Rams survived a game-high 35-point performance from Okeke, who also was helped by guard Danny Lewis’ 22 points. Westlake point guard Jamie Lewis, a Div. I prospect who seems likely to sign with Kansas, was relegated to the sideline in street clothes with an injury, despite pre-game speculation that he would play in the game.
In a game filled with momentum shifts and tons of drama, it was Newton who got off to a fast start in the first quarter, thanks to Jones who scored the Rams’ first eight points of the game, burying two long distance threes and a lay-up that was goal-tended to help Newton to an 8-4 lead at the six minute mark of the first quarter.
It then became a bit of a back-and-forth affair early on, as Westlake’s Chris Berry buried a couple of jumpers a minute and a half apart from each other, cutting the lead to 13-12.
That’s when J.D. Notae got hot, sinking a deep trey from NBA range, and then slamming one home off a transition after a steal. Newton center Josh Tukes’ buzzer-beater lay-in gave the Rams a 24-16 lead at the end of the period.
It was a combination of sharp perimeter shooting, transition buckets and stingy defense on Westlake’s 6-foot-8 phenom Chuma Okeke that aided a Rams explosion in the second quarter.
After Kelvin Simeon sank two free throws for Westlake to cut Newton’s lead to 30-23 at the 5:21 mark, Isaiah Miller sparked 12-0 run, starting with a monster reverse slam in Simeon’s face. That brought the capacity crowd to its feet, and helped stretch the lead to as much as 19 points at 42-23 before Okeke stopped the run with a three-point play the old fashioned way.
Despite that, Newton went to the locker room with a 42-28 lead. Which was built upon when Rogers sank back-to-back threes at the 1:40 and 1:10 marks of the third quarter to give Newton a 57-48 advantage heading into the final period of regulation.
Jones had a chance to put Newton up by one with 34.8 seconds left in the fourth quarter when he went to the free throw line to shoot two, but he sank the first and missed the second, which gave Okeke a shot at a game-winner at the end of regulation, which he missed.
The win raised Newton’s record to 28-1, and ended Westlake’s season at 18-11. The Rams will play Tift County on Wednesday, after Tift defeated Berkmar 72-55 in its second round game.
Since both Newton and Tift County are No. 1 seeds overall, there will be a Friday morning coin toss to determine which team gets home court advantage on Wednesday.
Stay tuned to www.covnews.com for more analysis and coverage on tonight’s game, as well as updates on Newton’s Elite Eight matchup with Tift County.