LITHONIA - On Friday, the Newton boys and girls varsity basketball clubs each looked for their first victory of the New Year against host M.L. King.
For the boys, the Rams (9-3 overall, 2-2 Region 2-AAAAA) hit the road fresh off their third place finish in the 12th Annual Century Bank Holiday Hoopfest. Newton was looking to make a statement in region play; however the Rams fizzled in the fourth, losing 70-57 to the Lions (11-3, 4-1) despite keeping it close for the opening three quarters.
In the girls game, the Lady Rams (4-8, 1-3) looked to take it up a notch against the Lady Lions (5-4, 1-3). They did just that coming away with a hard fought 45-37 victory and more importantly their first region win of the season.
"We didn't show up tonight," said a disappointed Newton boys head coach Rick Rasmussen after the loss. "We were too sloppy to compete on the road in this region and didn't play like we are capable of playing. We just didn't take care of the ball."
Neither team shot particularly well in the early going as M.L. King built a 14-12 lead at the end of the first period. Newton's Tee Farley had five of his 10 points in the opening stanza, while Tevin Bradley chipped in with four of his team-high 14 points.
The second quarter was much of the same as the Rams kept the deficit close entering halftime, 25-23. Sean Monk tallied four of his 13 points (six rebounds) in the period. With Bradley on the bench most of the quarter due to foul trouble, Demetrius McCray stepped in and scored four points while also gathering three boards.
But the second half saw the return of Bradley, as he responded with eight points in the third frame. Backed by Monk's four points, the Rams only trailed 46-43 heading into the final period.
However, too many turnovers and hot shooting by the Lions would lead to the demise of the Rams. M.L. King had four starters in double figures, including Demetrius Bates with his game-high 17 points. Johnny Stevens added 14, including four 3-pointers.
Newton had to foul down the stretch, and the Lions knocked down their free throws to seal the victory.
The Rams meanwhile got another solid performance from senior Montrell Grimes, who pulled down 13 rebounds to go along with his nine points. Jamon Hawkins added seven points and nine boards.
Although it was a lost opportunity for the boys in blue, they didn't have long to dwell on it as they battled Luella in yet another region battle the very next day. (Results were not available at press time.)
"That is the good thing about this time of year," said Rasmussen. "You get to come back quickly and hopefully get back in the win column. We are a good team when we take care of the ball."
For the girls, it was just what the Lady Rams needed at this point of the season.
Despite the Lady Rams starting the game off sluggishly - trailing 23-16 at halftime - Newton girls head coach Tiffani Johnson apparently had the right words at halftime as they came out smoking in the second half.
"We played with a lot more intensity tonight and really got some momentum going in the second half," said an ecstatic Johnson after the victory. "We controlled the tempo of the game and cut down on our turnovers."
A 14-7 Newton run at the start of the third period knotted the score at 27, and the hoop darlings would finally take the lead, 31-30, refusing to look back.
The seniors of the Lady Rams had a lot to do with the outcome of the game. Loren Wilkins knocked down a game-high 15 points. Shandria Usher was a force on the glass, pulling down 13 rebounds to go along with 13 points.
In addition, Shay Marks continued her strong play, reaching double figures with 10 points.