WOODSTOCK, Ga. — Newton’s memorable postseason run met an abrupt end in the Class AAAAAAA Elite Eight on Tuesday night.
On the heels of upset victories over No. 1 Tift County and No. 2 North Paulding, the fourth-seeded Lady Rams traveled to second-seeded Woodstock hoping to keep the magic alive. Newton hung tight for nearly three quarters, but the Lady Wolverines flexed their muscles late as they pulled away for a 64-39 win.
“When we believe in ourselves and we play as a team, we are almost unstoppable,” Newton head coach Tiffani Johnson said. “But [Tuesday,] what we didn’t do was believe in ourselves and play as a team. That [loss] was the result.”
The game’s turning point came midway through the third quarter. Trailing by seven points, Newton was afforded repeated opportunities to pull within striking distance through a multitude of looks at the basket. The shots never fell, however, and Woodstock eventually knocked down a bucket before sophomore Karson Martin drained a 3-pointer to put her squad up 39-27 at the 2:45 mark.
The Lady Rams never recovered.
Martin’s shot electrified the Lady Wolverines, sparking a run that saw them close the third quarter with a 44-30 lead and push it out to 49-30 with 6:16 remaining in the fourth.
Over the final six minutes, sloppy turnovers and hurried shots resulted in a further widening of the point differential as Woodstock ran away with the 25-point win.
“We just weren’t able to turn the corner,” Johnson said. “There weren’t any defensive or offensive surprises, but we just didn’t have the step-up we needed and stops we needed to make it happen.”
The first half was a competitive affair. Newton took the first lead of the night on a 3-pointer and battled valiantly despite trailing 15-11 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter saw Woodstock begin to establish a presence in the post behind the dominant play of sophomore Casey Miller, who finished the night with 23 points. Miller’s play was complimented by the sharpshooting of junior guard Bridget Utberg, who exploded for a game-high 32 points.
Consequently, the Lady Wolverines trotted into the locker room with a 30-19 lead.
While Newton’s third-round exit was disappointing, the future appears blindingly bright for the Lady Rams. They were led in scoring by freshman sensation Sanaa Tripp, who came to life late to score 15 points. She comprised one half of an outstanding backcourt this season alongside junior guard Ashleigh Norris, who added 12 points.
All five Lady Rams who contributed to the scoresheet Tuesday night — three freshmen and two juniors — will be eligible to return to the hardwood next winter.
“We’re not coming out of the locker room chin to chest. We have a great opportunity next year to be right back at it,” Johnson said.
Woodstock is heading to the Final Four for the first time in program history. The Lady Wolverines will travel to top-seeded Brookwood this weekend to play for a spot in the Class AAAAAAA state championship in Macon.