Few things are certain in life when it comes to the game of basketball at any particular level - professional, collegiate or high school hoops.
First, the San Antonio Spurs have become a dynasty and can contend with the best of them. Second, the Duke-North Carolina matchup is the most heralded of all rivalries. And third, any time Newton battles Eastside you're going to get your money's worth.
On Saturday it was no different as the visiting Rams (2-0) defeated the Eagles (3-1) for the seventh consecutive time, 53-48.
"It was another really fun one," said Newton head coach Rick Rasmussen. "It's a competitors-type ball game, and we love to play in these things. You want it to be special, you want it to be packed, you want people to care - that makes it all the more fun, and then the competitor comes out and you do the best you can."
Senior guard Sean Monk led the way for the Rams with a game-high 24 points, including eight rebounds.
"It is always fun to beat them," said Monk. "It was a tough game, (but) it was a good team victory."
In addition, Monk had four assists and two steals.
"Sean is a big-time player," praised Rasmussen. "I figured that he would be a gamer. We knew it would be tough, (but) Sean relishes that and he was our leader. I thought he really did a great job."
Newton forced 21 turnovers, including 13 in the first half alone.
"It (was) an aggressive ball game with a lot of grabbing and holding," said Rasmussen, "but you just (have) to play anyway, and I felt like we did. We played smart and for the most part we kept our discipline, and that was the difference."
Overall, the Rams shot 43 percent (17-of-40) from the field, while the Eagles were held to just 33 percent (17-of-51).
Newton shot 73 percent (16-of-22) from the charity stripe, while Eastside was held to 57 percent (8-of-14).
The Rams jumped out to an 11-6 lead in the first quarter after Monk nailed one of his three 3-pointers. But Eastside's Gabe Mathis evened the score at 13 with 15 seconds left until the second after a deep trey of his own.
Mathis led the Eagles with 15 points and eight boards.
The Rams found themselves trailing 20-19 after Mathis connected on both free throws late in the second period. But Newton regained the lead soon after when Kentarius Farley connected with two free throws, making it 25-23 entering halftime.
Farley had eight points, including three rebounds, three assists and four steals.
"Tee does everything we ask him to do and is tough as nails for a point guard," praised Rasmussen. "He exemplifies hard work, determination and heart."
But the Eagles tied it at 25 to begin the third when Artis Clanton sank one of his four made baskets in the quarter. In fact, Clanton scored eight of his 10 points during the period to keep the game tied 35-35 entering the fourth quarter.
However, Eastside head coach Michael Gerald was forced to call a timeout after trailing 43-37 with four minutes and 37 seconds remaining in the game. After regrouping, Eastside's Neal Latimore drilled a 3-pointer to close the gap, 44-43.
After trading baskets, Monk hit a jumper off a miss to increase the lead, 48-45. And it was all but over with when Newton's Tevin Bradley scored a layup and one, making it 51-45 with 35 seconds left in the game.
"I am a very competitive person," remarked Monk, "and when the games are fun like that it just seems easy to get motivated for a big game."
Bradley had 10 points, making it the second straight game the sophomore forward has reached double figures. (The first came in the season-opener against Jackson when he had 15.)
Newton's Jamon Hawkins turned in a solid performance with seven points and seven assists, including six rebounds and four steals.
Latimore had seven points, four boards and three steals. Rashad Hill added three points and three rebounds, including four assists and a game-high five steals.
"I don't think we left anything out on the court," noted Rasmussen. "Our kids were tired, but they sucked it up and I thought we played a good ball game.
"We knew it would be tough and it was," added Rasmussen, "but I thought a lot of the kids grew up. I feel like we've got a good group of kids and that's what's most important."