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Newton sends gym out with a loss
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The gymnasium at 140 Ram Drive will never again have a Newton basketball team run up and down the hallowed hardwood in a regular season game, and it was sent out with a loss.

The Newton boys’ basketball team ended the gym’s 39-year-old regular-season tenure with a 40-38 loss to Druid Hills Friday night, after leading by eight points heading into the fourth quarter.

The Red Devils (12-9, 5-8 Region 2-AAAAAA) out-executed the Rams, especially late when they turned a 37-35 deficit around in the final 59.5 seconds. Newton (16-9, 6-6) missed two of four possible free throws in the final minute, had two turnovers late and couldn’t execute its offense throughout the final eight minutes.

"We’re as good as they want to be," Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said. "If that one doesn’t hurt and they don’t mind it, that’s that; if they want to regroup and talk about it and get better and be coachable and execute, we’ll be good."

Druid Hills opened the fourth quarter on a 12-3 run, switching to a man-to-man defense, which Newton could never overcome through a vanished screen game.

In the end, it was Druid Hills’ Jacob King who put his team ahead 39-38 with 28 seconds to play. Rody Mitchell missed for Newton on the other end and the ball went out of bounds to the Red Devils with 18.9 seconds left. Druid Hills’ Kyle Simmons then made the first of his two free throws with 13.6 seconds to play. The second free-throw attempt came up short and went out of bounds to Newton under the Druid Hills basket.

During the ensuing timeout, Rasmussen drew up a play to get the ball down court using screens for a drive to the basket, a two point shot and possibly a foul for a game-winning free throw. However, none of that came to fruition.

"We didn’t execute the last play of the game at all," Rasmussen said. "We had the wrong guy bringing it up and nobody screened for the right guy because he didn’t have it."

The resulting play was a last-second heave by Mitchell which missed its mark.

Newton now has until Wednesday to improve before playing in the region tournament for a chance at the state playoffs and another shot to play on the home floor laid in 1974 before NHS moves to its new location for the 2013-14 school year.

"It comes down to ‘how bad do you want to be good,’ that’s what I told them," Rasmussen said. "It doesn’t matter who we play, it’s how we play on Wednesday. Are we going to play Newton basketball and take care of the ball, make some shots and talk about defense? Or are we going to turn the ball over and be lackadaisical?"

After going up 7-2 to open the game Newton led Druid Hills climb back in it. Then both teams didn’t execute in the second quarter, with the Red Devils outscoring Newton 3-2 in the second set of eight minutes.

In the third quarter, Newton played more like a team trying to win on senior night and started out on a 7-2 run.

Newton held on, leading 31-23 after three despite losing senior captain Rashard Cabane with four fouls for 7:51, stretching into the fourth quarter.

However, with Druid Hills coming back to make it 34-31, Cabane fouled out, leaving Newton without its best interior player averaging over seven rebounds per game.

"At the end, we couldn’t rebound," Rasmussen said. "We should have blocked out and we didn’t."

Cabane finished with a team-high 11 points, followed by D.J. Hill with 10.

Druid Hills, which turned it over 18 times, was led by King with 15 points and Gardner-Webb bound Deshon Burgess with 12.

The Rams will be either the No. 4 or No. 5 seed in next week’s region tournament held at Luella, while Druid Hills will be the sixth seed, facing off against the No. 3.

"It doesn’t matter who we play, it matters how we play," Rasmussen said. "We’ll find out how good we want to be if we execute and do the little things well, we’ll be really good. It’s never a matter of who we play, it’s how we play.

"After that performance, I’m not sure how bad they want it."