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Netwon High Rams top Newnan 53-33, punch ticket to state | Schools

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Netwon High Rams top Newnan 53-33, punch ticket to state
Netwon High Rams top Newnan 53-33, punch ticket to state

McDONOUGH -- (www.covnews.com) The Rams had several goals coming into the season. They met two of those by winning 20 games and the regular-season region title earlier this month. After a 53-33 win over Newnan in the opening round of the Region 2-AAAAA tournament Tuesday, they can cross off one more.

Derrick Henry scored 20 points, Newton held the Cougars to 13 points in the second half and the Rams punched their ticket to the Class AAAAA playoffs for the second straight year. 

"That's something like nine or 10 times in the past 13 years we've won 20 games and gone to state," Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said. "That's definitely something we shoot for each year and that's a great accomplishment but I don't think that's enough for our program right now. We're still hungry and we still have more goals. 

The Rams face Westlake in the second round Friday after the Lions dispatched host Luella 65-55 earlier in the evening.

"Friday has a lot of importance because it's playing for a home playoff game," Rasmussen said. "Tonight's win checks off a goal for this team – a goal we certainly wanted. When you set goals and you accomplish them, you set new goals. Our goal now is to secure a home state playoff game."

The Rams held Newnan to three points on 1 for 8 shooting in the third quarter and pulled away with a 17-point effort to lead by 20 going into the fourth quarter.

"Thirty-three points defensively is a great game for us," Rasmussen said. "We played really well on defense especially in the second half. We were happy with the outcome."

Henry scored 12 points in the first half including a three at the end of the opening quarter to power the Rams to a 7-point halftime lead. The Rams cut Newnan's defense to pieces in the opening minutes of the third quarter to build an overwhelming lead.

Newnan came out intent on slowing the game down and shot the ball well in the first half. After Newton scored the opening bucket, the Cougars scored eight straight including two threes to take an 8-2 lead.

Newton responded with a 10-3 run capped by Henry's three at the end of the quarter to lead 12-11 heading into the second.

Newnan didn't back down and stayed in the game thanks to its shooting and ball control. Both teams turned it over just two times in the first half. 

"They hit four threes in the first half and we were up seven (at halftime) with them hitting those shots so I thought we were in good shape," Rasmussen said. "They would have been down by more than 10 had they not hit those threes. They don't usually shoot 45 percent from three so I felt pretty good about that and in the third quarter they went cold."

Stephen Croone was effective going to the basket and scored 10 of his 13 points off the dribble or at the foul line. Croone also hit a three early in the fourth to answer a quick 5-0 Newnan run.

Shane Henry did yeoman's work on the glass, corralling a game-high nine rebounds. Willie Smith was limited due to foul trouble in the second half and scored just three points but Shane Henry picked him up with eight points.

"I thought Stephen was very aggressive and under control most of the time. He's very quick," Rasmussen said. "Derrick had another great game and I though Shane played extremely well particularly in the first half, defensively and Willie (Smith) was very active."

With the win securing a state playoff game, the Rams now look to take down Westlake for a third time this season. A win Friday would put them in the region title game for a second straight year.

"(Duke University) coach (Mike) Krzyzewski said earlier in the year, when they were on fire, and they got some new recruits -- coming off that (national) championship, that they already had that championship," Rasmussen said. "We already have the region championship so we're not trying to defend it because you can't defend something you've already won so we're trying to pursue it. Friday night is a big step."

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