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No. 2 Newton shakes off slow start against Whitefield
JD Notae honored for 1000th point
Newton senior JD Notae had 15 points in the Rams' Thursday win over Whitefield Academy. - photo by Anthony Banks | The Covington News

On a night when the No. 2 ranked Newton boys (ranked No. 1 according to would honor one of the current pillars of its program, a game Whitefield Academy team did its best spoiler routine.

The Rams overcame a sluggish first quarter that saw them down by as much as 12  before bouncing back for a run-away 82-58 win against the Wolfpack on Thursday night.

Notae, who scored 15 points in the win, was honored at halftime of the girls game, presented with a special basketball and surrounded by his teammates to commemorate eclipsing the 1,000 point mark for his career.

Making Notae’s achievement more impressive is the fact that he did it while not becoming a full time starter until after the midway point in his career.

For that reason, Newton point guard Ashton Hagans said he had a little bit of extra pride about his teammate’s accomplishment.

“It’s a blessing to watch him get this,” Hagans said. “He didn’t get no playing time at first, really, but now he runs the show.”

Notae joined the 1,000 points club during Newton’s win at Duluth a week and a half ago. When he reached it, Newton coach Rick Rasmussen called a timeout to celebrate the moment. But Rasmussen said being able to share that moment in a bigger way at home was special.

“When we were in Duluth it didn’t get a whole lot of fanfare,” Rasmussen said. “So he deserved that. To have it happen for him in front of his mom and family and our home fans, it was just the right thing to do.”

But then there was the matter of winning the game at hand against an athletic and pesky Whitefield Academy squad.

Whitefield jumped out to an early 8-0 lead, and led by as many as 14-2 in the first quarter, before settling for a 15-8 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

Both Rasmussen and Notae attributed the slow start to some rust that accumulated after nine days without playing a game.

“We hadn’t played in how many days,” Rasmussen said. “So I said to the guys, ‘Hey, the game’s already started and you’re missing a good one.’ We just didn’t play well at the beginning.”

It didn’t take long for Newton to pick things up though, particularly in the second quarter, thanks to some hot shooting by senior guard Darvin Jones. Jones sparked the Rams with three three-pointers in different parts of the second quarter – his third was a trey that gave Newton a 27-21 lead.

“I thought Darvin really saved us in the first half,” Rasmussen said. “He woke up and gave us life when we were struggling. It really made the difference for us. Darvin can shoot the ball, he doesn’t always get a chance to do that every night, but he did tonight, and we needed it.”

Newton then punctuated the second quarter flurry with two dunks from Notae and Hagans that ignited the crowd and the team.

“If you noticed, we didn’t get any dunks early on in the game” Hagans said. “But when started getting them in transition, that really pumped up our team.”

Now, with a perfect 10-0 record, Rasmussen and company are fixing their sites on the Farm Bureau Classic at Dorman High School in Spartansburg, SC, starting Tuesday. It’ll be a tournament filled with prestigious teams and names, including social media dunking sensation Zion Williamson of Spartanburg Day School.

“They’ll be in our bracket, so there’s a chance we’ll get to meet them if we advance,” Rasmussen said. “This will be a great opportunity for our guys to play against some high quality high school basketball teams.”