SAVANNAH - The journey for the 2008-2009 Newton High boys basketball team started on May 26.
After several weeks of two-a-day workouts and a successful day of scrimmages at Ola High, the Rams boarded a bus Friday and headed for Savannah State University for the first of two summer camps.
Perhaps it was the long bus ride or the tedious check-in process, as when play began the Rams came out somewhat sluggish. Still, Newton pulled off a three-point victory against Tattnall County in its opening game, 37-34.
In the second game, the Rams struggled mightily, shooting a miserable percentage from the field. Despite battling with tough defense, Newton finally fell in sudden death overtime by two points to Statesboro, a team that came within one game of going to the final four last year.
Often times there is a defining moment in a tournament, and the Rams experienced that in the third game against Windsor Forest.
With just seven seconds remaining in the game, Newton found itself down a point and the ball at midcourt. After inbounding the ball, Tee Farley worked free and received the return pass from Derrick Henry at the top of the arc for an open 3-point attempt. The shot hit nothing but net, and the Rams had not only a big win, 52-50, but a momentum swing.
Behind the excellent guard play of senior sharpshooter Jamon Hawkins, Farley, Henry and the tenacious rebounding from Demetrius McCray and junior Chuck Henry, the Rams ran off four straight wins on Saturday, defeating Calvary Christian of Florida, Effingham County, Beach High School of Savannah and Hardeeville of South Carolina.
Beach, as many recall, put the Rams out of the state tournament in 2007. This time around revenge was on their minds, as the Rams got it by manhandling Beach by 23 points.
That set the stage for the unofficial camp championship game Sunday morning. The game was played in Tiger Arena, a venue that seats 6,000 for Savannah State home games.
Newton's opponent was a familiar one - Windsor Forest. And the end result was the same, winning 45-40.
When asked about his team's performance at camp, Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said, "So far, so good; the kids really played hard and did a lot of good things. I think we did a real good job on defense (allowed 38 points per game) and also on the boards.
"This was a very competitive camp," he added. "We are looking forward to our scrimmages at Ola this week and then our second camp."
Newton leaves Thursday morning for its second camp at Georgia College in Milledgeville.
Before loading back on the bus for the long ride back to Covington, the Rams participated in a clinic held by the coaching staff of Savannah State. The players had the chance for some up close and personal play, feeling the intensity of a college practice as they were put through the paces for approximately 45 minutes.