The Newton Rams were close to blowing a double-digit lead against Peachtree Ridge on Saturday evening, but instead of allowing a Lions’ comeback victory, they held on to win 63-61 and advance to the Georgia High School Association basketball elite eight for the second-straight year.
In the game’s final moments Newton’s Chaz Tanner was yet to tally a point, but that wouldn’t matter in the end. Peachtree Ridge sent Tanner to the free-throw line with less than 34 seconds remaining to slow down the clock. Tanner missed, but JD Notae got the rebound and was fouled with 30.5 seconds left. Notae drained both free throws.
Despite good interior defense by Newton to prevent two shots from going in, the Lions scored on the third to make it 62-61, Newton with 9.5 seconds remaining.
Tanner went back to the free-throw line with 6.5 seconds left. That was Tanner’s time to net his only point of the game, and one of Newton’s most important, as he knocked down the first free throw and, spoiler alert, missed the second. Newton immediately trapped the ball and Tanner recorded a steal and got the ball to Simms, but Simms was going full speed and went out-of-bounds. Lions’ ball down 63-61 with 1.3 seconds left on the clock.
The Lions attempted a half-court heave, but Tanner stole the ball as time ran out.
“He’s long and he’s athletic and he’s tough. He has a certain skillset that we try to utilize to put him in situations to try to help our team and I thought his defense showed there late. That was big for us,” Newton Coach Rick Rasmussen said.
Newton got out in the open court at the start and three straight fast breaks allowed Josh Tukes and Jaquan Simms to give the Rams a 6-0 lead 1:30 into the game. The barrage forced Peachtree Ridge to call an early timeout.
Simms’ and-one gave Newton a 10-point cushion and fired up the crowd. The length and speed within Newton’s trap defense forced multiple Lions’ turnovers and allowed Newton to do what it does best — run in transition and get easy baskets.
Simms shared the fire and found JD Notae for 3 and the Rams took a 23-9 lead. Newton was up 25-9 heading into the second quarter.
Peachtree Ridge started the second quarter on a 10-4 run to puling it within 10. However, Tukes ended the run with a layup, keeping the Rams ahead by 12. Newton’s lead stood at 38-25 at halftime.
The Lions opened the half on a 7-1 run that was ended with Notae’s tear drop off the glass. Newton’s offense was all Notae in the third, as the junior scored 10 of Newton’s 11 points in the third quarter. During that stretch the Lions outscored Newton 22-11 to get within two heading into the final quarter.
Newton will play Grayson 4:45 p.m. at the University of West Georgia in Carrolton Thursday.