Rams move to 6-0 in region
Henry scores 29, Newton extends winning streak to eight
After its emotional win over Rockdale Wednesday, it could have been easy for Newton to suffer the quintessential letdown Friday especially at M.L. King. Instead the Rams built an early lead and held on down the stretch to win 53-43 and remain undefeated in region play.
"We were fatigued. I saw it yesterday in practice. We're fatigued yet we won by 10 on the road so I'll take it," Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said. "We were very tired so we made some mental errors. We were sloppy but you have to play this stretch."
Derrick Henry poured in 29 points, 19 in the second half and the Rams used a 19-point fourth quarter to turn a close game into a double-digit win.
The difference came down to free throw shooting. Both teams shot the all well but Newton (13-2, 6-0 Region 2-AAAAA) went to the line 10 more times. M.L. King (10-6, 2-4) hit 13 of 16 from the line while the Rams went 19 for 26. Henry was particularly effective, finishing 13 of 16 from the charity stripe.
Newton used its defense to build an early lead. Willie Smith scored the first bucket to get things going then Henry scored six straight as the Rams built a 10-2 lead. Henry had two steals during the run.
Newton threatened to break the game open. The Rams raced out to a 14-4 lead after one period and led by as many as 14 early in the second.
M.L. King responded with a 7-2 run to settle in a bit and finished the half outscoring Newton 6-3. Newton led 2317 at halftime.
"We came out ready to play and unfortunately we didn't put it away," Rasmussen said. "But we had enough down the stretch
and again, we probably expended a lot of energy there and let them get back in the game."
As crisp and quick as Newton was in the first half, the affects of playing their third game in four days began to show its effect in the second. M.L. King came out aggressively early in the third and opened the second half with an 8-1 run to tie the game at 25-25 with 6:36 left in the quarter.
"We really were just fatigued and made some mental mistakes and were reaching in and doing things because we weren't moving our feet but we were able to finish strong and that's what matters," Rasmussen said.
The Rams responded by scoring five straight and took a 30-25 lead on Stephen Croone's 3-pointer with 5:36 to go until the fourth.
Croone finished with six points on two threes. Smith chipped in with seven.
Henry and the Rams rebuilt a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter but the Lions roared back to pull to within one inside of three minutes to play.
Up 42-41, the Rams outscored M.L. King 11-2 over the final 2:48.
"Our kids kept their composure and didn't panic when they made that run," Rasmussen said. "We were fatigued but we finished the game on that 11-1 run in the last two minutes. We finished strong."
Newton remains the lone team unbeaten in region play. The Rams have a chance to move two games up on Langston Hughes when they travel to play the Panthers Tuesday.
Get low: Alex Ordu drives past a defender during Newton's 53-43 win over M.L. King Friday.