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Newton's run ends
Lady Rams fall in front of 3,000 at Tift
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Newton kept it close throughout the first quarter of its sweet 16 matchup at Tift County, but the hosts, Blue Devils, and their crowd became too much.

After trailing by just two, 14-12, after one quarter, the Lady Rams eventually had their season ended 55-38 Saturday.

Tift County (23-6) applied a 2-2-1 pressure defense, which Newton (21-9) was able to beat but after that, the defense changed and so did the game’s momentum. Tift County changed into a 2-3 zone, and the Lady Rams couldn’t hit the outside shots required to combat the defense.

“We were kind of sitting still, we weren’t moving,” Newton coach Tiffani Johnson said. “Our outside shots were off, and we struggled to get some offense going.”

Also possibly playing a factor was the fact that more than 3,000 people packed into the Tift County gym, with another 400 being turned away.

“It could have gotten to them; I’m sure that probably played a factor, but I’m not really sure why we played the way we did,” Johnson said. “But, to me as a basketball player, that’s the game you want to play in. That’s probably the biggest crowd any of them are going to play in front of.”

The Blue Devils led 29-17 at halftime and pulled away in the third quarter, to advance to the elite eight.

“They just outhustled us,” Johnson said. “I don’t think they were the better team or the more talented team, they played better than we did that night. We just didn’t play like we wanted to win.”

Despite the playoff loss, Newton played like it wanted to win throughout a majority of the 2012-13 season, setting the stage for next year’s team. The Lady Rams had their second straight 20-win season, and reached the Region 2-AAAAAA championship game and the second round of the state playoffs this season, something they will look to build upon next year.

“I think we made some stepping stones,” Johnson said. “It definitely gives us the momentum for next year. We went to the region tournament in the sweet 16, definitely milestones and things to be proud of.

“The girls have nothing to hang their heads about because their last game didn’t go the way they wanted to. They worked hard from November until the end of February, and they should be proud of what they accomplished so far.”