SUWANEE - After blasting Alpharetta 70-41 in the opening round of the Powerade Festival, host North Gwinnett shocked ninth-ranked Newton 50-45 on Monday night.
It was Newton's first loss of the season, snapping a nine-game winning streak. It was also the fewest amount of points scored this year by the Rams, who are ranked No. 9 in Class AAAAA.
"It just wasn't meant to be," Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said. "It was a strange game (with) a bunch of different things all at once, and we still almost won. It was close and our kids were resilient; it just wasn't meant to be."
The Rams (9-1) found themselves down early after the Bulldogs ended the first quarter up 18-6. North Gwinnett took advantage by coming out strong and a handful of Newton shots rimming out.
However, Newton outscored its opponent in each of the final three quarters.
By halftime the Rams trailed 28-18 despite having their star player Jamon Hawkins sidelined due to early foul trouble. Hawkins played just five minutes in the first half and approximately one quarter of the entire game.
Newton's Jared Mann kept the team afloat by scoring seven of his nine points in the second frame.
"Realistically, you're probably not going to win every game," Rasmussen said. "But I'd certainly rather lose now than in the region tournament or something. The biggest thing was there were just so many different factors that we just couldn't overcome."
At one point in the third quarter, the Rams trailed 42-24, their biggest deficit of the season.
Still, they overcame the 18-point disadvantage by going on a 21-7 run. Down just 46-45 late in the fourth, Newton eventually succumbed.
Despite of the loss, Rasmussen said his team learned a valuable lesson.
"The biggest thing was that our center, Chuck Edwards, is a really good player," Rasmussen said. "Chuck has been great. He really has come to play the last two games and has really stepped up.
"He was really probably our brightest spot. He's 6-foot-4, but plays taller than that. We learned he's an offensive threat as well. He keeps getting better and better, so I'm excited about that."
After scoring 14 points against Alpharetta on Saturday, Edwards had a team-high 11 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots against North Gwinnett.
"I'm hopeful that we'll come out, play well, shake it off and go right back to work," Rasmussen said. "If we can do that, I think it will be a real positive. That's what we need to do - come back, play well and just forget about it."
Jason Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.