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PREP BASKETBALL: Newton Lady Rams blow big third quarter lead, falls to South Gwinnett
Newton's Jurnee Smith drives past a South Gwinnett defender during the first half of Thursday night's 66-61 loss to the Lady Comets. - photo by Gabriel Stovall

COVINGTON, Ga. — It’s all even now. 

The South Gwinnett Lady Comets used a 17-0 run which started at the 3:27 mark of the third quarter to flip a double-digit lead into a 66-61 win over fifth-ranked Newton in a Thursday night showdown of the two top teams in Region 8-AAAAAAA. 

South Gwinnett’s Jasmine Williams scored a game-high 22 points, including 15 in that pivotal second half — many of them at the free throw line down the stretch — to help the Comets improve to 18-1 overall and 6-1 in the region. The win avenged Newton’s 61-58 win at South Gwinnett back on Dec. 1. 

“We lost with no fight and free throws,” Newton coach Tiffani Johnson said. “I don’t know what we were but I guess we got complacent with the lead, and then things got tight and we froze.”

Newton started off shooting hot in the first half, burying five three-pointers on its way to a 39-25 halftime lead. But as sharp as the shooting was for the Lady Rams in the first two quarters, it was just as dull in the last two. 

A jumper by Lexii Chatman and a score by Takiya Cotton represented the only two field goals for the Lady Rams in the entire third quarter. Meanwhile, Williams and Emani Walker took turns knocking down clutch buckets in that pivotal frame. 

The Rams, who played with precision and confidence in the first half, seemed to lose composure and begin to press offensively and miss seemingly routine assignments on defense as South Gwinnett started its run. 

Johnson peppered her team with a few timeouts in the third and early fourth quarters to try and pull her team together, but the Rams continued to play like a rattled bunch. 

“I was just frustrated because (South Gwinnett) was scoring the same way every time,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t like they were doing something spectacular. They were doing the play we talked about all week in practice. We weren’t focused. We didn’t have the fight and we weren’t there tonight.”

Williams with her 21 points was one of four Lady Comets in double figures. Makala Torrence aided with 13 and Walker and Shaniya Gause finished with 11 points each.

For Newton, Chatman led with 17 points while Jurnee Smith and Takiya Cotton had 15 and 10 points respectively. 

Newton’s got one more regular season home game left, and it’s against cross-county rival Rockdale on Friday for Senior Night. Johnson said she’s hoping that her squad can shake off whatever ailed them on Thursday in the next 24 hours. 

“Tomorrow’s senior night, and if I have to get my seniors motivated on their last home game, I’m not sure what to say,” Johnson said. “They’ve got to find a way to get over it. Shake it off. You still want your seniors to have an enjoyable senior night. Take out all the frustration, anger, whatever they’re feeling on Rockdale.” 

And as for South Gwinnett? 

“The good thing about tonight is it’s just the regular season,” she said. “We’ll see them again.”