The Newton Rams varsity basketball team ran into a buzzsaw Friday night, falling 73-67 to Luella on the road.
The Lions shot 81 percent from the floor in the second half, while a pair of standout performances from guards Andrew Blanton and Kylin Terrell, who finished with 24 and 17 points, respectively, helped Luella hand Newton its third loss of the season.
"We played pretty well, but they shot (the) lights out," Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said. "Their complementary players haven’t' done that all year, and they rarely missed tonight. I would not have expected that kind of performance out of them.
"Luella has played a brutal schedule so far, and they're one of the most talented teams in the region," he said. "I was proud of the way we hung in there, but they were very, very good tonight."
The Lions boast a line-up that includes 7-footer Doral Moore and prospect guard TeMarcus Blanton; the Rams held them to a combined 18 points in the loss.
"We did a good job on their two top guys defensively," Rasmussen said. "Taylor Hawkins did a great job on TeMarcus and we held our own down low against their big man. It was just an anomaly."
The first half featured a slowdown contest, with the Rams entering halftime down 22-18. Newton gave up just five points in the first quarter, but a 17-point performance from the Lions in the second quarter allowed Luella to enter the break with a four-point advantage.
Luella scored 29 points in the third, but Newton rallied in the fourth, cutting an 11-point deficit to just four with minutes remaining.
The Lions finished the game at the line, including a perfect 4-for-4 free-throw mark from Andre Blanton, clinching the home victory for Luella.
Jalen Glover finished as the Rams' leading scorer, tallying 25 points, while hitting six shots from beyond the 3-point line. D.J. Hill also finished with 14 points and three assists, while Darvin Jones added 13 points for Newton.
Rasmussen said that despite the loss, he was encouraged by the Rams' comeback under pressure.
"With a game like this, I think we need to remember how well we played down the stretch," Rasmussen said. "We can learn a lot from this game. Their athleticism was tough to deal with and we have to remember next time that we play them to keep them out of transition and to dictate the pace.
"We did a good job of that in the first half, but we have to slow them down."
After traveling to Luella, the Rams will host four consecutive games at home, beginning with rival Rockdale County on Tuesday.
"We've been on the road already for three of our toughest road games," Rasmussen said. "We've faced Lovejoy, we've faced Morrow and we've faced Luella. I think our schedule is going to pay dividends in the second half of the season."
Lady Rams win thriller
The Newton girls varsity basketball team picked up where it left off before the holiday break, capturing a victory over Luella on the road.
The Lady Rams needed a pair of extra periods to down the Lady Lions, defeating them 66-59 in double overtime.
Precious Price led Newton with 22 points, while Sonia Forney chipped in 15 points for the Lady Rams.
"We started off a little slow, and we missed a lot of opportunities," Newton coach Tiffani Johnson said. "We weren't finding the loose balls tonight and they got away from us.
"We had a chance to put the game away in the first overtime, but we weren't able to connect on our free throws," she said. "I am happy that we were able to win a close game on the road. We just have to keep playing well and make sure that everyone is handling their individual responsibilities."