COVINGTON -- Every time the Newton boys basketball team jumped out to a lead, East Coweta closed the gap. But in the end the Rams were able to hold off the Indians to get a 73-61 Senior Night win on Tuesday.
"They were an improved basketball team from earlier in the season," said Newton head coach Rick Rasmussen. "They never really got it to a threatening position, I thought it was a good win. This time of the year, wins are important. You'll take any win you can get."
Giving the Indians (8-15 overall, 1-12 Region 2-AAAAA) the firepower they need to continually close the gap on Newton (18-6, 9-4) was the 28 points provided by Rashad Swain.
East Coweta closed the gap to make it 22-21 in the second quarter before the Rams jumped out to a 27-21 advantage. The Indians closed the gap to 27-26, but Newton was able to extend the lead to 32-26 to end the first half.
The Rams were able to build their lead to 44-34, only to have the Indians close the gap to five points, 46-39, to end the third frame.
Keeping the Rams one step ahead of East Coweta were seniors Justin Thompson, Stephen Croone, Justin Gates and Shane Henry.
Henry, who finished the game with 16 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double, had eight of his points on putbacks, while Croone, who paced the Rams with 22 points and five assists, had four steals to keep East Coweta from possibly taking the lead.
"He had a couple key baskets at crucial times after missed shots. I told him before the game to try to get some putbacks -- if someone else shoots it, to go get it," Rasmussen said of Henry. "He did a good job getting rebounds as well.
"Our senior guards played well. Justin Gates had a nice game; he had a season high. He did a really nice job for us off the bench."
Gates finished the night with 11 points, with Thompson adding 15 to Newton's tally.
Newton continued to build their lead in the fourth quarter. But without Swain and other key people in the lineup, due to fouling out, East Coweta was unable to charge back for another comeback to close the gap.
As a result of the win and losses by M.L. King and a 70-69 overtime win by Newnan, the Rams have a game advantage over the Lions with one game left in the regular season. Newton finishes its season on the road Friday with a 7:30 game at Luella.