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Newton smacks Grayson in Elite 8
Jauqan Simms (left) and JD Notae (right) look up at the scoreboard at the University of West Georgia.

Newton outscored Grayson 23-9 in the third quarter, and its big three, of JD Notae, Ashton Hagans and Jaquan Simms scored a combined 54 points total to beat the other Rams 71-52 and avance to the final four of the Georgia High School Association basketball tournament Thursday.

Notae scored 13 points during the big third quarter.

“I thought he stepped up,” Rasmussen said regarding Notae. “I thought he and Ashton played particularly well at the guards. ‘Quan struggled until late, he made some good decisions in the fourth quarter.”

Notae went into unguardable mode in the third quarter, getting in the lane and scoring with a defender on his hip, hitting stepback jumpers and wowing the crowd. Grayson had no answer for the guard as he poured in 13 of Newton’s 23 points in the third to give Newton a 20-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Hagans was terrific throughout the game, scoring when he needed to and maintaining balance as the team’s floor general with his terrific court vision. Hagans finished with 16 and Simms finished with 15, including eight in the fourth to help Newton stay ahead.

Newton’s offense was prolific, but it was its defense and rebounding that stood out.

“We talked about it a lot; talked about the rebounding battle,” Rasmussen said. “They were supposed to be a good offensive rebounding team and had length and all. I thought we did a good job for the most part defensively. I thought defense was the key.”

Newton was able to capitalize on second chance shots in the first half, and for the most part they kept a lengthy Grayson team off the offensive boards.

“I thought our defensive gameplan was pretty good. [Alphonsho Willis], give him credit, he’s a senior and he had 24 points, but we were up by 20 so he can have 24 points,” Rasmussen said with a grin.

“We started Chaz defensively because of the length difference between he and Marvin. I thought Chaz gave us a spark defensively and Josh and Armani. I’m just real proud of the guys.”

Willis was a nightmare for Newton to guard, but his teammates couldn’t help him and he remained the only Grayson player with more than nine points. With that kind of offensive inequality, Newton was destined to win.

Newton had an outstanding first quarter, taking an 18-11 lead before the second period, but their offense came to a halt in the second quarter and allowed Grayson to get back in the game.

“Our ball movement in the first quarter was outstanding, offensively we were really clicking. Second quarter wasn’t as good. We talked about that, move the ball and don’t just stand there and hold it. Move it around and then let it come back to your guys who can score it so they can go right away instead of just holding it and trying to go one-on-one,” Rasmussen said. “I thought the ball movement was better again in the second half and that’s why we shot some layups. I just thought we were the better team tonight.”

The Rams led the Rams by as much as 24 points in the fourth, before Grayson got within 17, but couldn’t get any closer.