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Unmatched perfection
The Newton girls varsity basketball team clinched the Region 2-AAAAAA tournament title with a win over Luella Tuesday night. - photo by Anthony Banks

Perfection comes only every so often in sports.

Tuesday night, the Newton High Lady Rams reached that pinnacle, capping off an unblemished 2013-2014 region trek with a 65-46 victory over Luella in the Region 2-AAAAAA tournament title game at their home gym.

The win gave the Lady Rams their 21st victory of the season and their first region title since 2003, clinching the top seed the state tournament, which begins Friday.

Deandra Reed led the Lady Rams with 23 points in the winning effort, but in the end, it was the Lady Rams' defense that made the difference, turning Luella over 10 times in the opening half.

The region championship is the first for Newton coach Tiffani Johnson as the Lady Rams' leader, but she knew a region title was a feat her girls could accomplish from the start of the season.

"This was a goal we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the year," Johnson said. "It feels amazing. We've worked for this for so long. I'm almost speechless. I'm just so proud of these girls."

With the Lady Rams leading by seven at halftime, Newton broke open an even contest, using the hot-shooting touch of Reed to bury the Lady Lions in the third.

Reed scored 19 points in the third quarter, hitting six 3-pointers during the period, while helping Newton build a 23-point third-quarter advantage.

Reed hit her first 3-ball from the left wing with 6:39 left in the quarter with Newton leading 35-28 and ended her run five minutes later with Newton holding a 58-35 advantage.

Precious Price also added a 3-pointer during the quarter, as Newton outscored the Lady Lions 30-14 in the period.
The Lady Rams held the ball for much of the fourth quarter, slowing the game down with their large lead. Luella outscored Newton 9-5 in the period, but Reed's scoring outburst was too much to overcome.

"We came to win a region title tonight and I wanted to finish the game off," Reed said. "I knew my team needed me and I wanted to be there. It felt great to win a title and to play as well as I did."

Trailing 14-11 entering the second quarter, Luella tied the game on a Bianca Usher 3-pointer, but Price answered with a long shot beyond the arc, putting the Lady Rams ahead by a single possession. Luella tied the game on its second 3-pointer of the quarter, but the Lady Rams answered with a 7-2 run, taking a 24-19 advantage.

Mercedes Booker led the charge with a put-back layup, and Cynteria Langhorne added a score inside before Price scored her ninth point of the half on a driving layup. Sonia Forney added a free throw, but the Lady Lions ended the run on a Pam Diokpara layup.

Forney closed the quarter's scoring with back to-back scores, sending the Lady Lions into halftime behind 30-23.
Newton struggled to find its offensive footing in the first quarter despite 10 Luella turnovers, falling behind 7-4 in the game's opening three minutes. Luella's Brianna Moore and Genesis Jones scored on back-to-back layups for the Lady Lions during the run, but Newton battled back to tie the game at 9-9 on a Price pull-up elbow jumper.
Reed regained the lead for Newton just before the buzzer, draining a 3-pointer at the top of the key, giving Newton a 14-11 advantage heading into the second period.

Krystal Green led the Lady Lions with 10 points, while Price finished with 17 for Newton. Forney had 11 points for the Lady Rams.

Newton returns to action Friday at home in the opening round of the state playoffs. The Lady Rams will take the No. 4 seed in Region 4. Region 4 hosted its semifinals Tuesday, with championship games set for Wednesday night.