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Posted: March 26, 2017 10:17 a.m.

Lexii Chatman's small stature doesn't stop her from playing big

Jason Mussell | The Covington News/

Newton's Lexii Chatman takes pride in becoming more a vocal leader on the court for the Lady Rams.

 

COVINGTON, Ga. -- It doesn’t take Lexii Chatman long to think about that one play that highlighted the kind of season she had for the Newton Lady Rams.

When asked, her mind quickly retrieved her third game against the Archer Lady Tigers, almost as if the moment was waiting on standby in her brain.

It was late in the game during a double-overtime thriller — albeit a loss for Newton. But Chatman definitely won the moment in question.

“It’s got to be the Archer block,” Chatman said.

It came during the waning moments of regulation as Archer was on a fast break, looking like it would score a layup. That’s when Chatman sprinted down the court out of nowhere and rejected the shot that could’ve all but sealed the deal early for Archer.

“I knew in the position we were in that if I didn’t get back to make that play, we were probably going to lose the game then,” Chatman said.

Newton did end up suffering a 73-70 defeat in that classic matchup for the Region 8-AAAAAAA championship. But there’s no doubt Chatman won some respect from any on-looker who would dare question her ability because of her size.

Chatman is listed at 5-foot-5, but her heart makes her a giant, in that she has the kind of demeanor that keeps her from backing down, no matter the size of the challenge.

Another example in that same Archer game came with 5.7 seconds left in the first overtime. After Newton had been up by 11 points late in the fourth quarter, the Lady Rams’ offense stalled out. They went without a field goal until Chatman scored a layup over the outstretched arms of Archer’s 6-foot-2 Auburn commit Autumn Newby.

That basket tied the game, and sent it into a second extra frame.

For Chatman, it’s simply her doing what she feels she must to solidify herself as the unquestioned Lady Rams leader. And it’s the leadership aspect of her game that the 2016-17 The Covington News girls Player of the Year says is his her most improved attribute.

“Well, I definitely talk a lot more,” Chatman said. “When I came here as a freshman, I was really quiet. I never talked or said anything. I always just tried to speak through the way I played. But coach (Tiffani) Johnson kind of challenged me to step up more as a leader, so now I’ll do or say whatever I need to to help carry my team.”

Chatman’s play helped lift the Lady Rams to a 20-7 record overall and an 8-2 region mark with a region runner-up finish. She upped her scoring average from about 17 points per game during her sophomore season to close to 20 per contest. But the part of her game she really wants people to take notice of when she’s guarding an opponent rather than trying to score on them.

“Everyone knows I’m a shooter,” she said. “I put up a lot of shots all the time. I’ve got a basketball goal in my back yard and I’m always back there shooting. But I think where I’ve also really improved is my defense.”

She made up for her diminutive stature with her quick hands, snagging key steals that stymied the opposition’s offense, and kick started Newton’s transition game.

But more than her individual accolades and improvement, Chatman says she is excited about what she sees on the horizon for her team. With only two departing seniors — Janelle Cook and Demerika Mosley — Chatman said she’s going to double her efforts during the offseason to refine her game and help players like her fellow junior backcourt mate Jurnee Smith continue to push to the level she knows they can play.

“If I could pick anyone else to win this award, it would definitely be Jurnee,” she said. “I think Jurnee, especially toward the end of the season, really started coming on and really started playing well. Although we were disappointed to lose our last two games, I think it just made us all better as a team and more determined to do better next year.”

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