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Rams take the title at Walnut Grove tourney

Newton basketball kept rolling over the break as the Rams went 3-0 in a holiday tournament at Walnut Grove winning the championship 39-36 over Walnut Grove. Rams’ head coach Rick Rasmussen breaks down the tournament run in this exclusive question and answer.

The Covington News: Coach it seems like defense was a key part of you guys winning that tournament. Talk a little bit about how you guys played on defense.

Rick Rasmussen: Yeah we’re still a work in progress. We’re still making some mistakes here and there, but overall I think one of the keys is we’re not letting teams get out in transition and we’re really slowing some teams up that want to run and get out and go. We’re holding teams to a low field goal percentage and those are really important things. We’ve forced some teams that wanted to run and have some athletic quick players to not be able to use that athleticism as much as they’d like to. Again, mainly by not letting them get into transition situations. I think part of that is taking good shots and controlling the tempo and we’ve been able to do that most of the games we’ve played so far and it’s made a big difference. I think that was a big key in winning the tournament championship.

CN: Was Josh [Tukes] able to come back and participate in the championship?

Rasmussen: He was. He actually was available and played all three games. He came off the bench and backed up Antonio Smith, but now we’ve got two guys we can rotate inside so we’re deeper inside. They both played in all three games, which was good.

CN: Coach talk a little about having Tukes back. What’s the impact of that now?

Rasmussen: It just makes us deeper and it hasn’t come up yet in some games where we’re playing a team with two big guys at the same time that we need a key stop on defense, we might even put them in there at the same time. It definitely makes us deeper at the center position. They’re a little bit different players so different situations would dictate which one would be out there. I think it also makes it a competitive situation, so if one guy is playing better than the other you can go with that guy or if you need to take one guy out and try the other guy if one’s not playing well. I think it’s nice to have that option for us as coaches. It also would keep either one of them really from getting into foul trouble, so it mainly makes us deeper inside.

CN: Winning a tournament championship like that coach, what does that do for the mentality of your team?

Rasmussen: Well, I hope it keeps them realizing that if we stick together, stick to the gameplan, play Newton basketball and play team ball then we’ll be able to maximize our potential and be as successful as possible. Their attitudes have been very good and most of the time we’ve made good decisions. We’ve made some mistakes here and there, but they haven’t cost us games. They’re playing for each other right now and it’s nice for them to see that it pays off, winning the championship.

CN: It seems like [Donovan] Grubbs played well, D.J. [Hill] played well, so talk a little bit about your team and their contributions in the tournament.

Rasmussen: Jaquan Sims, who has been one of our leading scorers usually, he was named to the all-tournament team and D.J. Hill was named the tournament MVP. So, those two guys stuck out and were the most consistent in the three games. The championship game came down to an out-of-bounds play and Jaquan got the assist to D.J., who hit a three-pointer at the buzzer and that pretty much cemented D.J. as the MVP. We had just run a play for ‘Quan that we didn’t convert on at the end of regulation before the ball went out of bounds and there was .6 seconds to go. Those two guys stepped up and really played the way we’d expect them to play. They’ve been some of our leading scorers and they had the most consistent of the three games…

CN: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Rasmussen: This is only the first half of the season and we haven’t gotten into the meat of the region schedule yet, but I just think that this is important for us to build some momentum on. There are only really three championships you can play for in the season and obviously the region tournament and the state tournament are the most important, but this was good for us just to build some momentum from going into the region schedule.