Last time Newton and Tucker met up, the results weren’t favorable for the Lady Rams or the Rams. With both Newton teams playing their best basketball right now, they’re hoping the outcome to Friday’s upcoming thrilla in Covington will be much different when Newton hosts Tucker at home with a 6 p.m. start time.
The Lady Rams
What was a six-point game with under six minutes to play after the Lady Rams trailed 49-47 at the end of the third quarter turned into a 12-point victory for the Lady Tigers when Newton traveled to play Tucker on a Tuesday in mid-December.
The final score doesn’t show how close that game was. Newton was within one possession heading into the fourth quarter, but Tucker started the final period on a 14-2 run that the Lady Rams just couldn’t recover from despite outscoring Tucker 11-9 for the rest of the game.
“What we’ve been working on is playing a complete game,” Tiffani Johnson, Newton head coach, said. “For the past four games we’ve put four quarters together. So we’re hoping that when Friday comes we do the same thing and put four complete quarters together, that we stay intense the whole game and stay out of foul trouble.”
Foul trouble wasn’t a problem against Tucker as much as hitting free throws was. The Lady Rams misses at the charity stripe cost them an early victory against a region foe as they went 19-35 from the free throw line and missed 11 free throws in the second half.
Another issue for Newton was Tucker’s offensive rebounding ability. Newton’s defense forced missed shots, but Tucker was consistently able to pull down rebounds and convert second chance points.
“We’re out-sized so the boards are gonna be probably one of the biggest keys. If we can control the ball and keep possession of the ball and keep them off the boards we got a great chance of winning,” Johnson said.
Johnson added that she wants her team to continue playing together as a team like they’ve done the past few games and hopefully this time the Lady Rams will get the ‘W.’
‘Close, but no cigar,’ was all you could think of after Newton suffered a gut-wrenching 57-56 loss to Tucker. Down one point with 23 seconds left, Rick Rasmussen drew up a play for JD Notae, but Tucker played exceptional defense and drew a charge on the play to get the Tigers the ball back with 12 seconds left.
Tucker missed the one-and-one free throw and Newton couldn’t convert on the other end to get the victory.
For Rasmussen it was a completely off game for his team. Notae and Ashton Hagans went a combined 3-17 from deep and Newton also struggled at the free throw line.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well. We got impatient, and shot too many threes and we weren’t hitting ‘em. And then we went 7-18 at the free throw line, we lost by one,” Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen said he and his team are excited about the rematch, but it comes at a time where the Rams just lost one of their starters in DeAndrae Butler to a knee injury and Darvin Jones, who started last year and hasn’t played at all this year hasn’t been cleared for full contact yet.
“We’re gonna have to step up,” Rasmussen said. “Armani [Harris], the freshman is gonna have to play some now and Josh is gonna have to play physically and Chaz [Tanner].”
Jones is expected to go see the doctor on Wednesday where he could be cleared to play full contact, so don’t rule him out for Friday just yet.
“He’ll have to practice and look 100 percent before I’ll play him in a game because I’m not gonna risk re-injuring him. I wouldn’t wanna rush him back one week and then not have him in February. So we’ll be smart about that,” Rasmussen said.
Jones has been dunking, doing drills in practice, but Rasmussen won’t play him until he’s sure he can go full throttle.
Tucker has beaten Newton the last three times they’ve played and Newton is hoping the fourth time's the charm in a pivotal rematch that will have region playoff seeding consequences.
“We’re looking forward to it. I think we’re both very, very good teams,” Rasmussen said. “They’re very solid defensively and their physical toughness and their defense is what makes them good. I think we’re probably more explosive offensively, but then they’re probably a little better defensively right now. You put that together and see what happens.”