As Newton heads into the second half of the basketball season, it will have more experience in big games, and big wins than many of its 2013 opponents.
The Rams concluded 2012 going 2-1 in the Yule Tide Classic, including a 54-51 win over Gardendale, Ala., on Saturday.
Newton (10-3) led by 10 points in the third quarter, before Gardendale cut into the lead, and then went up by double digits again in the fourth. Gardendale made a layup in the last few seconds to cut it to three, but the game was not in double throughout much of the contest.
Rashard Cabane, an All-tournament team honoree, led Newton with 10 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Taylor Hawkins added 12 points off the bench and Rody Mitchell had 11 points.
"We played well most of the game, but kind of inconsistent in spurts," Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said. "We're really preaching consistency and I think the kids are learning the importance of what we're saying."
The Rams started the tournament with a loss against Alabama's top AAAAA school, before pulling off a win against a ranked Tennessee team, to finish as the only 2-1 team in the three-day event.
"It was a great tournament for us to get better and get tested," Rasmussen said. "I think we definitely got better and got a little deeper."
The Rams picked up their first win in the Yule Tide Classic by holding off Ravenwood, Tenn., 56-53 on Friday.
Newton broke a 37-37 tie at the end of three quarters behind its free-throw shooting and the play of senior leader Cabane.
Cabane, who was coming off a foul-plagued two-point performance the night before, rebounded in a big way with a career and team season high 22 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter.
"Rashard had a great bounce back game," Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said. "He took over in the fourth quarter."
Cabane hit five field goals, and then went 12 of 13 from the line, leading the Rams from the stripe. Newton attempted 41 free throws, making 29, shooting around the Raptors' 71 percent. However, Ravenwood had just 14 attempts, making 10 free throws.
Glover added 11 points for the Rams and Taylor Hawkins starred on defense.
"He was doing everything he could to lock up their 3-point shooters," Rasmussen said.
Facing the No. 1 ranked team in Alabama's Class AAAA on Thursday, Newton showed it can play great defense in any state.
The Rams fell 34-32 to Dallas County, Ala., but held the Hornets, who haven't scored less than 56 points, way under their average. Dallas County earned the No. 1 spot by defeating the then-No. 1 team, Wilcox County, 72-50 on Dec. 21. In their opener of the tournament held at Wallace State College, the Rams led by seven at one point, and 20-17 at halftime. The Hornets tied it at 24 going into the fourth quarter, where the Rams scoring slowed to just four points in the final period.
Tied at 30, Dallas County hit a 3-pointer, before Jalen Glover tallied a steal and scored a layup to make it a one-point game. Dallas County then hit a free throw with 4.7 seconds left. Newton's D.J. Hill drove the length of the court and hit a layup as the clock expired, but was called on a controversial and disputed traveling call.
Glover finished with 13 points to lead the Rams, and Rody Mitchell added 10. Cabane was held to just two points as he sat most the game with foul trouble.
Newton held the Hornets' leading scorer, Marquell Harris to just six points.
Newton hosts Luella Friday, before traveling to Eastside Saturday.