Before a sparse home crowd on account of the holiday weekend, the Newton basketball program swept Lithonia in a critical region matchup.
Despite a fundamental breakdown - one that led to a season-high 20 turnovers - the Newton boys pulled through with a 57-48 win.
"If we expect to do anything down the stretch, we'll have to play a lot better than that," said Newton coach Rick Rasmussen. "We sputtered and struggled, but we did enough good things to make up for the difference."
Meanwhile, the Lady Rams (6-12, 2-7) won by way of sound defense and physical endurance, 49-36.
In the boys game, Newton jumped to a 16-6 lead after the first quarter behind Sean Monk's eight points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field.
The boys in blue would tack on another 16 points in the second, this time led behind the sharp shooting of Omar Crawley. He added all nine of his points in the period, including two 3-pointers, one of which he was fouled in the process, completing the four-point play.
But Lithonia (2-12, 1-7) forced eight turnovers in the half, close to what the Rams average for an entire game.
Newton shot 57 percent in the first half to offset the lethargic and uninspired play, leading 32-16 at halftime.
The Bulldogs took advantage of their opponent's state of mind in the third quarter using a full-court trap. It worked, catching the Rams off guard thus allowing Lithonia to go on a 12-4 run to open the second half.
"We just never really got in rhythm offensively," said Rasmussen. "We got out of character and lost some of our roles. It was just extremely sloppy, but we'll take the region win."
Ahead 45-31 entering the final quarter, Newton still had enough fire power to win despite its shoddy play. Montrell Grimes scored six of his team-high 15 points in the period to pace the Rams.
"Like I always say, I can't do it without my teammates," said Grimes, who also had a game-high 10 rebounds.
Nicknamed "Big Hops" for a reason based on his ability to leap tall buildings, or in this case basketball rims, Grimes ended the game after a steal at mid-court followed by an acrobatic reverse dunk.
"He's a quiet leader and an important part of our team," said Rasmussen.
Monk had 14 points, four assists and five steals. Kentarius Farley added eight points, while Tevin Bradley had seven points and eight rebounds.
Lithonia's Darrien Horton scored a game-high 19 points, including three 3-pointers. Smyther Fallen added 14 with three treys.
Justin Trotter and Julian Bellinger contributed four points apiece for the Bulldogs.
In the girls game, it was a potential turning point for the Lady Rams.
"We came out this week and had two really good practices," said Newton coach Tiffani Johnson, "and I think it carried over to the game. I emphasized intensity and heart all week and it paid off for us."
With each team looking for its sixth win of the season, something had to give. But it wasn't the intensity because there was plenty of physicality in the game.
A combined 50 free throw attempts were taken by both teams, plus a plethora of no-calls.
"We had to fight," admitted Johnson, "but my team didn't let that get to them, and I'm glad they played through it."
Newton shot 64 percent (21-of-33) from the charity stripe, while Lithonia was 7-of-17 (41 percent).
Nicole Antoine hit the first field goal to give the Lady Bulldogs (5-9, 2-7) a 2-0 advantage with five minutes and 35 seconds left in the opening quarter.
But it would be their only lead of the game.
Keke Gaither countered with a coast-to-coast layup. The made basket ignited a 15-0 run by the Lady Rams to end the quarter. Their pressure defense, which forced nine turnovers and 13 missed shots, was impeccable.
In fact, Newton had more points in the first period than Lithonia had at halftime, leading 28-14 after the initial half of action.
Overall, the Lady Bulldogs shot 21 percent from the field (13-of-62) and from 3-point range (3-of-14).
Exiting halftime, both teams continued to press, resulting in a combined 13 points scored. At the end of the third quarter, the Lady Rams had a comfortable 35-20 lead en route to the victory.
For Newton, it was simply a well-rounded effort among the entire team.
"I definitely think that's when we're the best," remarked Johnson.
Shay Marks scored a game-high 12 points. She was perfect from the free-throw line, shooting 7-of-7.
Gaither finished with nine points. Qaiserah Shariff and Loren Wilkins each had eight points, while Jasmine White added six.
Lithonia's Cynia Clark and Jacinta Woods each scored 10 points. Antoine added eight, while Johvonna McPherson and Shanai Williams had three points apiece.