“One more,” Newton said.
His teammates soon followed, saying the number of games the Laney boys basketball team still has to win if it wants to capture its first state championship. The Wildcats got this opportunity with Thursday’s 52-44 win against Jordan in the Class AA state semifinals at the Macon Coliseum.
“We believe in each other,” Newton said. “We got one more game, and we’ll play like it’s our last.”
Laney persevered late, as its 12-point lead in the third quarter was entirely erased at 39-all early in the fourth quarter.
But the Wildcats then took control.
For most of the game, Laney’s Glenn Rodriguez was able to drive inside, only to miss shots. Wildcats coach Jerry Hunter told Rodriguez to keep attacking, and the senior started to finish in crucial moments.
Rodriguez successfully drove to the hoop for three scores in the final period, a strong conclusion after he was held scoreless in the opening three periods.
His first field goal gave Laney the edge at 41-39, and the Wildcats never let go of the lead.
However, Jordan remained close, even getting two open looks on 3s that would have tied the game.
Earlier, Jordan’s Marcus Powell was the main reason the Red Jackets forged a tie, as he scored 10 points in the third quarter.
Four of his field goals were strung together, helping the Red Jackets go from 39-27 down to just 39-35.
Teammate Arzayvian Smith later tied the game at 39, but the Wildcats ultimately made the necessary plays.
Shaquille Cook was one of the Wildcats to come through, as the center made two blocks on a pair of Jordan chances in the fourth.
On offense, Cook scored 22 points, with 16 of those coming in the first quarter. Cook rocked the rim in that period, going in for slams.
Fellow senior Jammie West added three points at the free-throw line in the closing moments as Laney moved on to play for its first state championship.
“This is a blessing,” Cook said. “This is our year. We got to do it.”