JACKSON - Throughout the evening Friday, Rick Rasmussen found himself repeating the words "patience" and "balance" to his Newton boys basketball team.
Clearly, the Rams were listening.
Newton rolled to its eighth victory in nine games this season, a 72-48 triumph at Jackson High School that featured an attack that was, well, patient and balanced.
"We had a great first half," Rasmussen said of the Rams (8-1 overall, 201 Region 2-AAAAA), who raced to a 21-9 lead after one quarter and never looked back. "We shot the ball well and we were clicking on all cylinders."
Earlier Friday, the Newton girls gave 10th-ranked Jackson fits for the better part of three quarters before wearing down and losing, 66-49.
Meanwhile, the Newton boys started quickly, building a double-digit lead six minutes into a contest that, for all intents and purposes, was decided by halftime. The Rams shot 59.3 percent in the first half on 16-of-27 shooting, including 6-for-11 on 3-point attempts.
"We came out with confidence," said freshman Derrick Henry, who came off the bench to score 14 points and was one of five Rams in double figures. "Coach told us what we needed to do, and we just came out and executed."
If the Rams - who beat Jackson 65-44 in the season opener Nov. 27 - were looking ahead to next week's Citizen's Bank Holiday Hoopfest at Cass High, it didn't show.
Jamon Hawkins' four-point play from the left corner - in which the junior hit a 3-pointer, was fouled, then sank the subsequent free throw - gave Newton a 4-3 lead. After Jackson (4-4) pulled to within 6-5, the Rams blew things wide open with a 13-2 run, highlighted by a pair of Kentarius Farley 3-pointers.
Up 21-9 after one period, Newton opened the second quarter by scoring nine of the first 11 points. Montrell Grimes scored two buckets in the run, and made a nice pass to Tevin Bradley for a layup that made it 30-11.
Later in the quarter, Sean Monk's 3-pointer from the left corner pushed the advantage to 37-17, and Monk's buzzer-beating jumper from the left wing ended the first half with the Rams ahead, 39-23.
Baskets by Grimes, Hawkins and Bradley in the first five minutes of the third quarter pushed Newton's lead to 45-24. The Red Devils didn't get closer than 17 points the rest of the way.
"I'm real proud of the kids," Rasmussen said. "We got off to a great start."
Joining Henry in double figures were Hawkins (14 points), Grimes (13 points), Monk (11 points) and Bradley (10 points).
"We came out and played hard," Henry said.
The Newton girls (2-6, 0-3) also played hard, hanging tough with Jackson (8-0), the 10th-ranked team in Class AAA in this week's GaSports.com coaches' poll. Energized after beating county rival Alcovy 58-32 in their last game Dec. 15, the Lady Rams played very well for most of the first three quarters.
Newton scored the first seven points of the second half, taking its first lead at 30-28 on a Shay Marks bucket off a nice pass from Loren Wilkins. A Wilkins' jumper from the right wing tied the game at 34-34 with 4:21 to go in the third.
But Jackson wore down the Lady Rams from there, using a 14-4 run to open up a 48-38 lead early in the fourth quarter.
"We definitely played hard," Newton head coach Tiffani Johnson said. "Our intensity was where it needed to be. But we had a couple of lapses that hurt, and points in the paint killed us."
Marks led the Lady Rams with 16 points. Wilkins and Leah Butler each added 10 points apiece.
Two 3-pointers from Wilkins and a trey from Martica Hyman brought Newton within 13-10 after the first quarter. Jackson would lead by as many as eight in the second quarter, but Marks' 3-pointer from the head of the key brought Newton within 28-23 at intermission.
The Newton boys play at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday against Duluth in the Citizen's Bank Holiday Hoopfest at Cass High in Cartersville.
The Lady Rams play at 1 p.m. Thursday in the Campbell Holiday Classic at Campbell High in Smyrna.