In to­tal com­mand

Rams top West­lake, ex­tend re­gion streak to 25

The Covington News - - Sports - Josh Briggs Sports Edi­tor

It's not of­ten you get a reg­u­lar sea­son matchup be­tween two Fi­nal Four teams from the pre­vi­ous year but that's what Newton faced Wed­nes­day on the road at West­lake. And while the Rams lost in last year's semi­fi­nals and West­lake went on to play for a state ti­tle, it was Newton rolling to a 74-61 win.

A game af­ter eclips­ing the 1,500-point mark for his ca­reer, Der­rick Henry paced both teams with 26 points on his birth­day and the Rams tied a sea­son high for points.

The Rams scored 25 points in the sec­ond and 27 in the fourth to pull away to­ward the end and win by dou­ble fig­ures for the fourth time in as many games.

Stephen Croone had an­other solid game, scor­ing a ca­reer-high 19 af­ter post­ing dou­ble fig­ures the past three games.

"When you get in the 70s, you had a great game on of­fense," New-

ton coach rick Ras­mussen said. "(Stephen) is play­ing more un­der con­trol and tak­ing bet­ter shots. He's very smooth when he's in a rhythm."

West­lake led 14-13 af­ter one pe­riod be­fore the Rams ex­ploded for 25 points in the sec­ond. De- fen­sively Newton held the Lions to 12 and led 38-26 at half­time.

Henry closed out the half with a cross­court pass to Justin Thomp­son who knocked down a three to give the Rams a 12-point lead.

The Rams strug­gled of­fen­sively in the third and West­lake man­aged to close the gap to three twice be­fore Newton closed with a Henry three at the buzzer.

"Those were pretty plays to end the first half and the third quar­ter," Ras­mussen said. "Those plays were big. That makes a dif­fer­ence when a team makes a run like they did in the third. It gave us a lit­tle more breath­ing room."

The fourth quar­ter be­longed to the Rams. Both teams traded buck­ets to open the pe­riod be­fore Newton closed the game on a 20-12 run.

Both the Rams and Lions did a good job of tak­ing care of the ball. Newton didn't turn it over in the first half and af­ter strug­gling to start the third quar­ter with West­lake's press, fin­ished with seven turnovers for the game. West­lake turned it over eight times.

"When they pres­sured us, I think we did a much bet­ter job with it than we have lately," Ras­mussen said. "Press-break of­fense was the key in the fourth quar­ter. We shot 10 for 15 with a bunch of layups which is what it should be. I though the press-break of­fense was the best it's been all year."

The Rams have now own 25 straight re­gion games dat­ing back to their firstround loss to Greenbrier in the 2008 re­gion tour­na­ment. They went 17-0 last year in route to a re­gion cham­pi­onship and are 8-0 on the sea­son. They look to make it 26 straight tonight ver­sus Stephen­son. Newton de­feated the Jaguars 71-57 in De­cem­ber.

"Our de­fense is where it was last year and our of­fense keeps im­prov­ing," Ras­mussen said. "We've been sloppy with the ball but had a good game in the press of­fense tonight. We need to tighten that up if we want to be as good as we can be."

Brit­tany Thomas/The Cov­ing­ton News

To the bas­ket: Stephen Croone scored a ca­reer-high 19 points in Newton's 74-61

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