Ja’Quan Newton wasn’t just The Inquirer’s Player of the Decade in Southeastern Pennsylvania boys’ basketball.
He also was the author of the Story of the Decade: a sad and sweet, poignant and powerful tale that almost seemed like the script for a made-for-TV special about a high school hoops superstar, his devoted mother, and the mixture of tragedy and triumph.
Newton scored 33 points, including the go-ahead basket in overtime, to lead Neumann-Goretti to victory over Susquehanna Township in the state final in the Giant Center in Hershey in the last game of his high school career on March 21, 2014.
Newton’s sensational performance — which included eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and six points in the pulse-pounding pressure of overtime — came one day after his mother, Lisa Brown, died at age 38 after a three-year battle with breast cancer.
Speaking with reporters after the game, Newton said his mother would have wanted him to play, otherwise she would be “up there, fussing at me.”
Newton’s remarkable final game capped one of the best careers in Philadelphia Catholic League history.
A four-year starter, Newton was the consummate Philadelphia point guard who could score, pass, defend and bring out the best in his teammates. He played with a hard edge but also with a bright smile on his face.
He could shoot from distance and get to the rim. He could guard on the ball. He could see the whole floor, beating defenders with slick ballhandling and dishing to teammates for open looks.
Newton led the Saints to four straight league titles and scored a Philadelphia Catholic League-record 1,972 points. His mom watched him play nearly every game.
“We were in Binghamton [N.Y.] a few years ago and we had three fans and she was one of them,” Neumann-Goretti coach Carl Arrigale told The Inquirer the day that Lisa Brown died. “She was his No. 1 fan.”
A Miami recruit, Newton scored 1,128 points in his career with the Hurricanes and played in the NBA G League.