Fuel the streak
Henry's 30 lifts Rams past Stephenson for 26th straight region win
There's no love lost between Newton and Stephenson especially while Derrick Henry is a Ram.
Henry, who grew ups playing with several Stephenson players, scorched the Jaguars for 17 points in the opening quarter and 30 on the game, Alex Ordu and Stephen Croone added 12 and 11 respectively and the Rams rolled to a 63-52 win to remain unbeaten in region play.
The Rams have beaten Stephenson in five straight dating back to last year including last year's region championship game and pushed their region winning streak to 26.
Henry was a machine in the first quarter. He scored 12 of Newton's first 14 points including tow threes and propelled the Rams to a 21-7 lead at the end of the period. Newton (17-2, 9-0 Region 2AAAAA) built its lead to 19 at the break. Henry finished the first half with 21.
"That first half was a thing of beauty," Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said. "We had a great first half. The team played very well in the first half."
The second half was a different story. Instead of the well-executed offensive show, the game slowed down thanks to several turnovers and fouls. The Rams fell victim to Stephenson's trash talking and rough play in the third quarter and saw their 19-point lead slowly diminish.
Up 36-17 opening the third quarter, the Rams hit their first shot to push their lead to 21. Stephenson responded with quick 6-1 run then continued to eat away at Newton's lead.
The Jaguars used fullcourt pressure defense and found success off turnovers and at the free throw line. Derrick Harper went 10 for 10 from the line and had eight free throws in the third period.
"We got sloppy versus their pressure and went cold at the same time," Rasmussen said.
Stephenson adjusted its defense on Henry in the second half, forcing other players to produce. Ordu and Croone were up to the task. Ordu hit a three in the second half to give the Rams some relief, then later a key layup and Croone continued to improve his interior game by getting to the rim and finishing.
The two teams jawed with each other throughout the second half fueling the already bitter rivalry.
The game was especially emotional for both Ordu and Henry who grew up playing in Stephenson's district. Ordu was an All-Region player for Stephenson last year before moving to Newton before the summer.
The Rams endured a technical foul and several poor possessions in the third and led 48-41 heading into the fourth.
The Rams regained their composure in the fourth quarter and reestablished command of the game by outscoring Stephenson 1511.
"We still led by seven at the end of it and then got the lead back up to 17 before in the fourth before they tried to make it something other than basketball," Rasmussen said.
Henry scored his 30th point with 1:43 to go and narrowly missed a new career high. He's scored 32 twice — the last time coming against Luella last week.
Newton sits at 9-0 and two games clear of second place Langston Hughes. The Rams play Newnan Tuesday on the road before returning home to take on East Coweta Wednesday.
"We are playing well and trying to stay on top of the region," Rasmussen said. "We have to take it one game at a time."
Providing a lift: Alex Ordu drives to basket for a key layup during the fourth quarter of Newton's 63-52 win over Stephenson Friday.