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Rams top UNC commit Brandon Robinson and Douglas County
Ashton Hagans, Marvin Boireau, Jaquan Simms and Darvin Jones all celebrate a victory over Douglas County.

Down four entering the fourth quarter against a tough No. 4 seed in Douglas County and University of North Carolina commit Brandon Robinson, a fiery speech from Coach Rick Rasmussen at the end of the third lit a fire under the Rams and they went on to win 71-65, advancing to play Peachtree Ridge on Saturday 6 p.m.

“I thought we gathered ourselves going into the fourth quarter,” Newton Coach Rick Rasmussen said. “I thought we finished strong. I kind of chewed on ‘em a little bit at the end of the third and said, ‘Hey, where’s the team from the first quarter and it looks like they want it more, so we gotta regroup.’ So I thought we did from then on.”

After Douglas County took a 50-46 lead, Ashton Hagans’ two free throws made it 50-48, Douglas County. Khalyl Waters was able to split the defense and lay it in to provide the Tigers with a 52-48 lead heading into the final frame.

Rasmussen sat his team down during the break and started passionately yelling at the team in hopes to get them back in it. The Newton crowd behind the bench saw it and started cheering and clapping, hoping to give the boys the boost they needed.

“We’d let them control tempo and we let them make decisions instead of us being proactive and making decisions. I thought we were letting them control what we do instead of us being in charge,” Rasmussen said. “When we got the ball, we’re in charge so I just had to remind them that we control it and we’ll be as good as we wanna be and if you want it you can get it, but you’ve gotta step up.”

It worked.

Hagans found JD Notae for three to open the fourth. Then Hagans got to the line on the next possession and tied the game at 52 after knocking down 1-2 free throws.

Hagans gets to the line and shoots 1-2 to tie it at 52.

They went back and forth, trading baskets until Jaquan Simms scored five straight points including the and-one that gave Newton a 64-61 lead. On the following possession with Hagans on Robinson late in the game, Hagans forced a Douglas County turnover and the Rams held the lead.

Hagans, Notae and Simms all had big games, but not necessarily at the same time.

“Yeah it was spread out,” Rasmussen said. “We never really had all three of ‘em going at the same time, but in different spurts I thought they all played well. That was a game of ups and downs. We started strong and finished strong, didn’t have very good second and third quarters.”

Newton’s attack was balanced in the opening period, Tukes and Notae were both big contributors. On defense Tukes was huge protecting the rim and Ashton Hagans played excellent full-court defense on Robinson and frustrated the star early.

With a foul at the 1:26 mark, Hagans exited the game, but they didn’t lose anything on defense as Marvin Boireau entered the game to check Robinson. Boireau guarded him for most of the game and did a good job keeping a body and a hand in Robinson's face. Tukes also got some easy buckets that helped Newton build an 18-9 lead after the first.

Newton had a 14-point lead against the Tigers with less than four minutes to play in the second quarter. JD Notae was rolling, scoring 11 points in the second quarter including a thunderous one-handed flush that punctuated the 9-4 run that gave Newton its 14-point lead.

But then Douglas County switched its defense to a full court trap and with their length and speed, forced the Rams into turnovers and got back in the game trailing by four at halftime.

“I think so,” Rasmussen responded when asked if the Tigers’ length and speed were a problem for Newton. “I think we didn’t use fakes well, we were impatient. We took some ill-advised shots, we got sped up, which is the reason they did it. They’re one of the longest most athletic teams that we’ve played all year. I told the guys that they were longer than anybody in our region.”

Robinson’s dunk opened the second half and trimmed Newton’s lead to two. Two straight turnovers by the Rams led to points for Douglas County, but it was Robinson’s and-one that gave the Tigers a 34-32 lead. Simms’ bucket tied the game at 36.

Newton’s defense struggled in the third. They’d double, but didn’t rotate or recover in time to prevent easy baskets. Tukes’ putback made it 38-36, Newton but Waters answered with a layup.

The first half was all Notae, but the second was all Jaquan Simms. Simms started taking over in the third, his and-one gave the Rams a 41-38 lead.

As the two teams began to attack the basket more, more fouls were called. Two free throws from Hagans had Newton leading Douglas County 43-42 in the third.