OAK RIDGE, Tenn. - The Newton boys basketball squad tipped off its season in style over the weekend by winning its first two games - in a different state roughly 250 miles away, nonetheless.
On Friday, Newton (2-0) edged Oak Ridge, who went 32-3 last year and reached the Elite Eight, 72-67 before topping Wartburg Central the next day 88-62.
"We knew it would be a tough test, but we wanted it to be difficult," Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said. "We feel like we'll have some tough road games in our region and that doing something like this would be good for team bonding and a good way to start the year. Hopefully, it will pay dividends down the road."
Despite a full capacity of approximately 1,000 fans - roughly seven cheering for Newton - the Rams took care of business starting with Oak Ridge. Newton led by as many as 11 points and never trailed by more than four.
Jamon Hawkins led the Rams with 29 points, including 19 in the second half. He finished with six 3-pointers. Derrick Henry added 23 points, including 17 in the first half.
Newton's Tee Farley connected with five straight free throws in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
"Before the game, we told our players they weren't going to just hand it to us - we were going to have to take it from them," Rasmussen said. "That was our slogan, and so we did."
Against Wartburg Central, Newton shot 83 percent to complete the road sweep.
Henry had a game-high 25 points. Hawkins added 19.
"Right off the bat, one of the things that stood out was we didn't have a letdown," Rasmussen said. "I'm proud of the guys for maintaining the same kind of intensity that helped us win the tougher of the two games the previous night. The kids came to play and had another great game."
All 10 players for Newton scored Saturday.
"When our players play the way they're capable of playing we're a pretty good basketball team," Rasmussen said.
Farley scored 15 points, dished out four assists and collected four rebounds. Charles Edwards had nine points and nine boards.
"This was a true test; a real strong building block and something we can draw from to make us better later on in the season," Rasmussen said.
Newton hosts Jones County today, beginning with the girls game at 6 p.m. followed by the boys at 7:30 p.m.
Jason Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.