A pair of Southern powers go at it as Lake Highlands, one of the favorites for the TX 6A title takes on Newton from outside of Atlanta, one of the top teams in Georgia’s largest classification. The interesting individual matchup in the game is Lake Highlands 6’6 junior Tre Johnson, arguably the top player in the national Class of 2024 and 6’7 senior Stephon Castle of Newton.
Newton came out hot as it got three-pointers from 5’11 sophomore Tim Prather and 6’2 senior Marcus Whitlock. Lake Highlands finally got on the board with two free throws from Johnson. Whitlock put back a shot for Newton but Johnson answered with a three. A driving score from 6’4 junior Jabez Jenkins gave Newton a 10-5 advantage with 4:27 left to go in the quarter. At that point Lake Highlands ripped off a 7-0 run, highlighted by a three from 5’11 junior Jaylen Washington. Newton tied the score at 12-12 on a drive from Castle, but Lake Highland scored the next four, highlighted by a slam from Johnson to go up four, 16-12. Jenkins hit a three for Newton to end the scoring for the quarter, making it a one-point game, 16-15, in favor of Lake Highlands.
Lake Highland quickly extended their lead to 19-15 to start the second quarter. Newton’s 6’5 sophomore Davin Neal got them on the board and back to within two, but then Lake Highland scored seven straight points, five from Johnson (a three and a putback dunk) to lead 26-17 at the six-minute mark. Newton scrapped back with a run of their own, getting to 26-24 with 3:36 left in the period. The score would remain close until five straight points from Lake Highlands’ Washington pushed its lead to 36-29 with just over a minute to play. Each team would score three points the rest of the half, which found Lake Highlands up 39-32.
Newton used a 6-3 run to get to within four at 42-38 early in the third quarter. Once again Lake Highland went on a run, scoring seven straight points, culminating in a three-point bucket on the break by Johnson. Now Lake Highland led by double-figures, 49-38, and looked in control. Newton responded with a 10-2 run to get within three, 51-48, with forty-five seconds left. Lake Highland’s 6’2 senior Warren Hamilton, knocked down a three with four seconds left to give Lake Highland a 54-48 lead going into the final period.
Lake Highland pushed its lead to nine, 57-48, quickly. In all, Lake Highland outscored Newton 12-6 to build a 66-56 lead with 2:11 left in the game. However, thanks to having a thirty-second shot clock, Lake Highland could not hold the ball. Newton responded and in a big way. The Rams forced three straight turnovers and converted them into points. With thirteen seconds left, Newton’s Prather knocked down a mid-range jumper to tie it at 66-66. Lake Highland turned the ball over and it looked like Newton’s Castle would get a break away score for the win. No such luck, as a Lake Highlands player was able to foul him. With one second left, Castle had two free throws to win the game. Both were off target, and we headed to overtime!
Newton got the first score in the overtime, a putback from Jenkins. After that it was all Lake Highlands. Johnson tied the score with two free throws but a three from 6’1 senior Quinton Perkins pretty much sealed the deal. Lake Highlands advances to the next round with a 76-68 win.
Johnson led Lake Highlands with 27 points. Washington delivered 19 points while Hamilton scored 11 points and Perkins contributed 10 points.
For Newton, both Whitlock and Jenkins each scored sixteen points. Castle finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists.