It was an overtime thriller on Dec. 17 in Morrow in the Mustangs first meeting with the Newton varsity basketball team, when Newton miraculously completed a second-half comeback and stole a road win in region play.
Newton didn’t need a miracle this time against the Mustangs on Tuesday night, but they did have to survive a 47-45 nail biter in regulation for their seventh region win of the year.
It’s safe to say Newton did not bring their A-game against the Mustangs, and Morrow played the Rams tough – using their length to affect Newton’s usually effective style of play.
Newton shot just 43 percent from the field for the game, but late free throw shooting helped Newton overcome Morrow’s fourth-quarter push.
“An ugly win beats a pretty loss,” Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said. “That was big win for our region standing.”
But, as they say a win is a win, and Newton showed heart as they made game-changing plays to pull out the victory.
The Rams were led by junior guard D.J. Hill, who made huge baskets late and knocked down clutch free throws down the stretch.
But, the play of the game was made on the defensive end, as junior Tarik Rodgers took a huge charge in the closing minute of the game to keep the Mustangs off the scoreboard.
“The funny thing was, I had just told him to get ready to take the charge,” Rasmussen said. “That was a big play.”
Neither team was able to get much separation throughout the game and Newton only led by four to end the first quarter.
The Rams earned their largest lead of the game in the middle of the second quarter, when they took an 18-11 advantage.
Morrow quickly closed the gap, finishing the half on a 6-1 run to go into the locker room down two.
The Mustangs gained the lead in the early third quarter and kept the lead for much of the quarter, though never leading by more than four. Hill scored seven points in the quarter for Newton and the Rams faced a one-point deficit heading into the fourth.
Morrow kept the lead for the beginning of the final period, but Newton regained the lead on a layup from Keion Sims.
From that point, both teams had their turn with lead, but, it was Newton that knocked down clutch free throws to seal the two-point lead.