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Posted: December 12, 2013 8:57 p.m.

Rams, Eagles battle for bragging rights

Matt Smith/

The Eastside Eagles host the Newton Rams tonight at 8:30 p.m. in the programs' annual rivalry contest. Both teams enter tonight's game with 5-1 records.

Tonight, the Newton Rams and Eastside Eagles boys varsity basketball teams tipoff in a county rivalry battle for bragging rights, as both teams look to continue their impressive starts to the 2013-2014 season.

The Rams will travel to the Eagles’ home gym, taking on an Eastside program that has won four straight games after beginning the season 1-1.

The Eagles enter tonight’s contest after defeating region rival Walnut Grove 61-51 on Tuesday.

Eastside coach Gregory Freeman said he expects a well-coached Newton team on the floor tonight.

“I know Newton is traditionally a very good team and they play disciplined basketball,” Freeman said. “During my time here, I (have learned that) they will play smart. What we want to do is try to attack them and make them react to our pressure and see what happens.”

Freeman said that as with most rivalry contests, fans can throw the records out the window when comparing the two programs.

“I think we may be a little deeper, but they have some kids that are stepping up for them,” he said. “It will be interesting. The game always is. Throw our wins and losses out; they’re going to come out hungry and we are too.”

Eastside will be led on the court by senior guards Treyvon Francis and Anthony Henderson, who combined for 35 points against the Warriors earlier this week.

The Rams enter the contest after defeating Cedar Shoals last Saturday, dominating the Jaguars 58-45 at home.

Jalen Glover paced the Rams with 18 points, while freshman guard Darvin Jones added 16 in the win.

Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said that his Rams have to just continue playing the way they’ve been playing to have success against the Eagles.

“Whenever you play a team for the first time during a season, you have to focus on doing what you do well,” Rasmussen said. “The emphasis this week is on us. If we play our game, we’ll be in good shape.”

Rasmussen said that he hopes his team has turned the corner after suffering an early region loss to Lovejoy last week.

“We’re coming off a good game, and I saw improvement in areas from our previous game,” he said. “I hope we’re consistent. We can turn the corner. One thing that we will always have to combat is our lack of size, but we have to do whatever it takes to compete.”

In a region loaded with height and athleticism, the Rams hope their early season tests will pay dividends against the Eagles.

But, with bragging rights on the line, neither program wants to yield to the other when tip-off comes at 8:30 p.m.

“For the kids and the community, this game is important,” Freeman said. “It’s not a region game, but they’re another brick along the path we’re trying to take.

“Beating a team like Newton and winning a game with a lot of pressure, it’s a precursor for how you attack games in the region tournament and playoffs,” he said.

Rasmussen said he and the Rams will be ready for whatever the Eagles have in store for them.

“You’re playing for county bragging rights,” Rasmussen said. “I always look forward to it every year.”

The Eagles and Rams split contests last season, with the Rams winning at home 59-42 and the Eagles winning at home 45-38.

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