Cougars rally past Tigers on road


By midway through the second quarter against rival Newton, Newton County coach Steve Harber decided he had seen enough.

By that point, Newton sharpshooter Brandon Payne had already drained five 3-pointers.

So Harber got out of his man-to-man defense and switched to a box-and-one defense.

Harber’s change paid dividends as the Cougars scored nine straight points and held Payne scoreless in the second half and took a 58-47 win over the Cougars on Saturday night at Newton High School.

It was a sweet win for the Cougars after the Tigers beat them 55-52 on their own court in mid December.

“I thought everybody that played contributed tonight,” Harber said. “I haven’t looked at the scores but it was pretty balanced. Got some good play off the bench from some guys. It was a big win. We needed this. I was pleased with the effort. We had talked a lot about boxing out and rebounding and I thought we did a good job with that tonight.”

The difference in the game was Newton County’s defensive effort, especially on Payne who hit four 3-pointers in the first period and one in the second to pull Newton within 26-22 with 5:49 left in the first half.

“Every time we played them, (Brandon Payne) hits a lot of shots for them,” Harber said. “He shoots the ball well against us.

We went to a box and one against them that kind of shut him down and he got a little frustrated. We went to it in the middle of the second and I think he hit one shot after that.”

After Payne hit the 3-pointer with 5:49 left in the second, County went on a 9-0 run and led 35-26 at the half.

From there, the Cougars outscored Newton 10-7 in the third to lead 45-33 going into the fourth.

Newton pulled within seven points with five straight to open the fourth period but the Cougars then went on an 11-2 run to take a 56-40 lead on a bucket by Chris Mulford with 3:56 left to play.

“(Coach Harber) went to the box and one and we struggled with that,” Newton coach Darin Gray said. “We had gone over that earlier in the year but haven’t looked at it in a while. The kids didn’t really understand what I was trying to do. But this game was a real learning experience for me. This was a bragging right game. The best thing about this is now we can come back and work on it. We lost the game but we are going to learn from it and come back and work on the box and one.”

Peyton Reeves led Newton County (11-3) with 16 points while ECCC signee Jaylin Nicholson had 14 points. Chris Mulford added 12 for the Cougars while Yunish Billy added nine.

Payne led Newton (10-5) with 14 points while Deshun Watts added 11 points.

Forest boys 67, Newton County 55

The Bearcats handed the Cougars their third loss of the season with a 12-point win on Friday.

The game was tight in the first half as Forest led 18-14 at the end of the first. County then cut the lead to one at the half as they outscored Forest 15-12 to make the score 30-29 at the half. But the Bearcats put the game away in the third period as they outscored County 22-10 to take a 52-39 lead into the fourth.

Chris Mulford led a balanced scoring attack for the Cougars with 16 points while Jaylin Nicholson added 14 points. Yunish Billy and Peyton Reeves each had seven points apiece while A.J. Snapp added six points.

Newton County will host Mendenhall on Tuesday to open Division 5-4A play and will travel to rival West Lauderdale on Friday.

Newton boys 54, Leake County 34

The Tigers used a balanced scoring attack as they beat the Gators by 20 points.

The Tigers built a small lead in the first half as they outscored the Gators 13-8 in the first and 12-9 in the second to lead 25-17 at the half. The Tigers broke the game open in the third, outscoring Leake 16-4 to lead 41-21 after three.

Brandon Payne led Newton with 20 points while Javarious Moore added 14 points and Jamarian Pace chipped in 13.