In the first half, the young stars of the Lady Rams were flying high and running fast. Freshman guard Alexcia Chatman made sure her presences was known.
Chatman played with great emotion, energy, speed and determination out on the floor. Her tenacity empowered other teammates as fellow leader Imani Broadnax dominated as well. Not too many freshmen can impact a playoff game like Chatman did. If steals were recorded, Chatman would have walked off the court with about four takeaways. Because of her physical nature, Chatman’s night was cut short as she didn’t play almost the entire third quarter with four fouls under her belt.
Having the star freshmen off the court didn’t change much as Lovejoy struggled to make consistent baskets all night. Missed layups, free throws and three-point shots made Lovejoy almost non-existent.
Also helping that fate was Broadnax from Newton as she took over the game with Chatman on the bench. Broadnax drove to the basket like no other with a lights out mentality. Her deceptive speed was unstoppable to guard as she drove time and time again surging to the basket with contested layups. Broadnax led the way with 13 points on the night.
Coming off the bench the majority of the night, Jurnee Smith possessed stellar energy that provided Newton an extra boost to keep the lead in their hands.
During the second half, Newton remained locked in defensively to run away with the game, but missed free throws by the starters kept Lovejoy in the loop for the latter part of the second half. In fact, when asked about the improvements her teams has to make in order to win the final round, Tiffani Johnson, Lady Rams’ head coach, said, “Free throws. Free throws were the name of the game today. Had we made our free throws early on – we started making them in the fourth quarter when we built the lead – but had we done that the entire game, I don’t think we would have been as tight. Free throws kept the game close.”
Coach Johnson was right, as the Lady Rams stretched the lead making those clutch free throws in the final minutes. Leader Broadnax helped increase the score while sinking a few key baskets in the fourth. Newton capped off the night with a 58-52 victory over Lovejoy as the story of free throws led them to advance to the region championship. For region championship results, check the covnews.com.