SNELLVILLE -- Newton’s Caleb Byrd was nearly perfect in the second half for the Rams.
His first missed shot in the second half didn’t come until with just under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter with the game deadlocked at 58-all against Archer in the Region 8-AAAAAAA third-place game.
Byrd’s next shot attempt with 56 seconds remaining gave the senior his 25th point and the Rams a two-point lead, one they did not relinquish in an eventual 61-58 win to clinch the region’s No. 3 seed ahead of the state tournament.
Only 17 points were scored between the two teams in the fourth quarter.
After leading for much of the first half, only once did the Tigers hold a lead in the fourth quarter. With Newton leading by two points, Archer’s Mekhi Carter nailed a corner three-pointer to give the Tigers their first lead in almost four minutes.
Less than two minutes later, Newton’s Shawn Smith knocked down a corner three-pointer of his own on a pass from T.J. Clark to give the Rams a 58-56 lead with 3:36 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Following missed shots from both teams, the Tigers knotted the game at 58-all when Areyon Johnson drove to the basket and scored with 2:39 remaining.
Each team failed to score on each of their next three offensive possessions before Byrd broke the scoreless drought with a layup following an Archer turnover with 56 seconds remaining.
Looking to tie the game, Archer’s Brent Smith caught a pass in the paint and turned towards the basket before losing possession. The Ball bounced into the awaiting hands of Newton’s Smith, who raced up court before getting fouled with 17 seconds remaining.
Clark was then fouled on the ensuing inbounds attempt by the Rams with seven seconds remaining, setting up a 1-and-1 situation. The sophomore made the first and missed the second, but the Tigers turned the ball over after securing the rebound, allowing the Rams to run out the clock with a three-point victory.
The Rams lost both regular-season meetings with the Tigers prior to Monday night’s victory.
Byrd finished his night shooting 10 of 15 from the field including 4 of 5 from three-point range. Byrd was the only Ram to finish in double figures. Clark and SMith each scored seven while freshman Jakai Newton chipped in with five.
With the win, the Rams (19-9) will travel to face Collins Hill in the first round of the state playoffs on Thursday. The Eagles (16-11) lost to North Gwinnett 86-55 in the Region 6-AAAAAAA championship bout to finish as the region’s No. 2 seed.
The Rams will be looking to win their sixth consecutive first round playoff game dating back to the 2014-15 season.