It wasn't how newton coach Rick Rasmussen would have drawn it up, but in the end, Rasmussen and the Rams were elated to walk away with a 55-51 victory over Lovejoy Monday night in the semifinals of the Region 2-AAAAAA tournament.
Trailing 45-40 with three minutes to go, Lovejoy tried to cling to a flucuating lead.
Newton freshman Darvin Jones had other plans.
Newton chipped away at the Wildcats' advantage, drawing to within one of Lovejoy with a Keion Sims basket inside.
With just over a minute left in the game, Jones, who almost was out of the contest due to an injury in the first half, drained a 3-pointer from the right wing after guard Jalen Glover grabbed an offensive rebound, giving Newton a 51-49 lead with 51 seconds to play.
D.J. Hill knocked down a pair of free throws and had a game-clinching steal late in the contest, advancing the Rams to the tournament finals with a date with Luella late Tuesday night.
“DJ played well the whole game (and) then Jalen stepped up then and freshmen Darvin Jones stepped up," Rasmussen said. "Really all five starters played extremely well. That’s what it took. Everybody played well and we won.”
Newton and Lovejoy finished the first quarter tied 14-14, with Hill scoring five of his nine points in the opening period.
Lovejoy battled back in the second quarter, holidng the Rams to just eight points in the period while carrying a 25-22 lead into halftime.
“In the first quarter we came out and kind of punched them in the mouth. In the second quarter they kind of punched us back," Rasmussen said. "I said at halftime what are you going to do now? Are you going to hit back or not? We stepped up and made some big shots down the stretch.”
Newton answered Rasmussen's challenged and took a 30-27 lead in the third, but Lovejoy's Marion Currington scored three times from the floor and went a perfect 3-of-3 from the charity striple to give the Wildcats a six-point advantage heading into the final period of play.
Currington finished as the Wildcats' leading scorer with 16 points, while Sims finished with a game-high 22 points in the win.
Jones finished with 11 points, while Glover added 10 to score in double figures.
Due to the late finish of Tuesday night's championship game, full title game coverage can be found online at www.covnews.com.
Newton returns to action Saturday at home in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
Final tournament pairing and start times have not been set.