Five Newton Ram seniors were recognized on Senior Night Friday and it was those seniors who were instrumental in a 73-61 win over East Coweta.
"It was a big win for us. Any win this time of year is huge," Newton head coach Rick Rasmussen said. "Our Seniors played well. They carried us tonight on senior night which is appropriate."
In the first meeting earlier this season, East Coweta put up only token resistance as Newton dominated and won by 40 points. Things were quite a bit different Tuesday night.
The Rams appeared to be in control throughout the game, but East Coweta refused to go away. The Indians used the 3-point shot to keep themselves in the game as they would end up hitting 9-of-21 from downtown.
Newton came out of the gate quickly and built a 14-9 edge by the end of the first quarter. It was all seniors in the first quarter led by Stephen Croone's six, Justin Thompson's four and Justin Gates' four points off the bench.
The Rams opened up more of a lead in the second, only to see East Coweta storm back and cut the lead to only six at halftime. Newton held serve in the third quarter and went to the final stanza up seven at 46-39. The fourth quarter saw the seniors crank it up a notch again.
Croone netted 12 in the period giving him 22 on the night. He also ended up with eight assists and four steals. Center Shane Henry dropped eight of his 16 points in the fourth and notched another double-double by pulling down 12 boards to go along with four blocks. Justin Thompson finished the night with 15 points, four helpers and five steals while Justin Gates realized his season high with 11 points backed up by five rebounds.
The final margin of victory for the Rams should have been much greater than the 12 point decision, but inexplicably the Rams struggled at the free throw line barely shooting 50 percent on the night.
"We had some great play and some sloppy play," Rasmussen said. "We played well in spurts. We did not appear focused at the free throw line, but still held a comfortable lead most of the game. We did a good job attacking the basket and getting to the line but need to do a better job with the free throws down the stretch. We had shot the ball at the line the last couple of games before tonight."
The win solidified the Rams' hold on second in the region and then they got help from elsewhere as both M.L. King and Langston Hughes would lose on the night leaving Newton in solo possession of second place.
Their record now stands at 18-6 (9-4 Region 2-AAAAA). A win tonight at Luella locks up second place and the No. 2 seed in the Region Tournament which begins next week at Westlake. Something Rasmussen knows won't be easy.
"We need to gut out a hard-fought win at Luella on Friday [tonight]. They are having their best season in school history," he said.
The start time for the game has been changed from 8:30PM to 7:30.