The last time Luella’s boys had beaten Newton, many of the Lion players were in middle school and some were in elementary school.
Temarkus Blanton scored 25 points and Luella took an 81-78 double overtime win in a key Region 2-AAAAAA game Friday night at Newton.
Newton had won 10 straight over the school from Henry County, a streak that dated back to 2007.
“It’s just one of those things where every time we go up against each other, it’s just a hard-fought, close ball game,” said Luella coach Jamond Sims, whose club was outscored 59-50 from the floor but made 31 of 42 free throws, including 18 of 26 in the two overtime periods. Four players fouled out and the two teams combined to shoot 61 free throws.
In the first half, it appeared Luella (10-3, 3-0 Region 2-AAAAAA) would have an easy time breaking its losing streak against Newton. The Lions shot 61 percent, and a 15-0 run that bridged the break between the first and second periods gave thema 27-11 cushion.
The most damaging part of the run occurred to start the second quarter, when the Lions scored the first 10 points, sparked by back-to-back 3-pointers from B.J. McNeal and Blanton. When it was over, Newton had called two timeouts and faced the biggest deficit of the game.
The Rams did not go quietly, though.
“They shot 61 percent in the first half, and I knew if they didn’t shoot 61 percent in the second half we’d have a chance,” said Newton coach Rick Rasmussen.
Meanwhile, Newton (10-4, 1-2) struggled shooting from the floor, particularly in the first half, when the Rams shot 38 percent.
The Rams outscored Luella 16-10 over the last 5:21 of the second period keyed by a pair of 3-pointers by Jalen Glover, to pull within 10, 37-27, by halftime.
Luella’s 7-0 run early in the third gave the Lions a 44-30 lead, but Newton scored the final 10 points of the period to pull within four points entering the fourth.
Newton, which had trailed since the early stages of the first period, tied the game four different times in the fourth period, the last coming on a running floater in the lane by D.J. Hill with two seconds left, forcing the first overtime.
The Rams led 62-61 midway through the first overtime period after a basket by Rody Mitchell, but it was the last time they were ahead. Luella led by as many as three on three occasions in the first overtime, but a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Newton’s M.J. Boykin forced the second overtime.
Luella kept making free throws to take the win, including the final two after Hill’s 3-pointer with four seconds left made it 79-78.
Nyrick Evans added 19 points and Kaderious Compton 11 for Luella. Rashard Cabane led Newton with 23, Glover had 19 and Boykin 10.