STONE MOUNTAIN - Every team experiences its fair share of ups and downs.
Unfortunately for the Newton High boys basketball squad, its problems - injuries and illnesses - occurred at the most inopportune time: the region tournament.
That being said, the Rams (17-9 overall, 8-7 Region 2-AAAAA) watched their season come to an end Tuesday against Redan, 37-31.
"It was the right type of game for us, a slow-down game," said Newton coach Rick Rasmussen. "I thought we battled hard. We had our chances, but just didn't cash in."
Meanwhile, the Lady Rams (6-17, 2-10) were quickly disposed of by Stephenson, 58-11.
For the boys, the flu bug has plagued the Rams for the past two weeks, even attacking the coaching staff. In addition, a shoulder injury left senior Sean Monk with only one good arm at the most important time of year.
The Rams started the game off very sluggish, falling behind 9-1 before Jamon Hawkins drained a 3-pointer to get them going. Montrell Grimes would add five of his eight points as Newton closed the gap to end the first quarter, 13-11.
Hawkins, who led all scorers with 16 points, again got things rolling in the second. He connected with three from long distance to help the Rams build a four-point lead. However, Redan would bounce back and regain a 22-21 lead entering halftime.
The Raiders opened the third quarter with a new game plan, deciding not to allow Hawkins access to the ball. Their plan worked, as they double and triple-teamed him throughout the entire second half, limiting him to just two field goals.
As for the rest of the Rams, no one else was able to step up. Amazingly, the men in stripes would whistle Redan for two personal fouls in the second half and only seven overall.
Meanwhile, Newton was called for 17 fouls despite sitting in a zone the entire game. The disparity allowed Redan to shoot 19 free throws as opposed to six, and none by Hawkins, despite the mugging he endured all night long.
The Rams still managed to stay close, trailing 30-27 as the final quarter began. With a slim edge and five minutes left, Redan spread the floor and went into a stall. Newton then came out and pressured, forcing several turnovers.
But after failing to convert, they were forced to foul, ending the game.
Overall, the Rams did a good job of taking care of the ball, turning it over just 11 times.
"We basically handled their pressure pretty well," said Rasmussen, "and we did a good job on the boards considering their height advantage."
Led by Grimes' seven rebounds and Charles Edwards' five off the bench, the Rams lost the rebound battle, 21-19.
Redan was led by Kenny Hall and Yannick Crowder, who netted 13 points and 11 respectively.
"I hate for it to end this way because this has been a great group of kids all season long," said Rasmussen. "Their attitudes have been excellent and they deserved a better finish than this. It is too bad that the injuries and illness came at a critical time in our schedule. There is just no room for error in our region.
"Our seniors have been great," added Rasmussen. "We wish them the best and we will really miss them."
For the girls, the top-ranked Lady Jags opened on a 16-1 run during the first quarter.
They silenced any type of scoring by the Lady Rams, limiting them to just one field goal in the entire game.
Newton responded with just five points in the second quarter, trailing 36-6 at halftime.