In total command
Rams top Westlake, extend region streak to 25
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."
To the basket: Stephen Croone scored a career-high 19 points in Newton's 74-61