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Eastside grounded
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On Friday night, the Newton Rams varsity basketball team traveled to Eastside for its first contest against the Eagles this season, defeating its rivals 52-46.

Taylor Hawkins led the Rams with 22 points, as Newton defeated its second county rival after opening the season with a home victory over Alcovy.

Newton head coach Rick Rasmussen said the Rams’ defensive effort in the first half was the difference in the game.

“I thought (the first half) was great for us defensively,” Rasmussen said. “I thought the guys really played smart and they listened to our defensive plan and executed it very well.”

The contest began with both teams struggling to score; they combined for 11 points in the opening eight minutes of the game.

Newton carried an 8-3 advantage into the second half, outscoring the Eagles by five in the first period.

Newton extended its lead to 11-3 after a free throw by junior guard D.J. Hill and a layup by senior Keion Sims, but the Eagles looked on the verge of making some noise of their own.

Senior guard Treyvon Francis made a free throw and a layup to cut the lead to 11-6, but the Rams kept their offense moving, taking a 20-10 lead into halftime.

After a low-scoring first half, action picked up in the third quarter, as both teams’ competitiveness began to shine.

The period began with both teams exchanging points at the free-throw line and points in the paint, which also included a dunk by Eagles’ senior forward Daniel Oduah.

The two teams continued to trade baskets, with Francis hitting a 3-pointer that shifted the momentum in favor of the Eagles as they ended the period only down by five points.

The fourth quarter began with the Eagles continuing to cut away at the Rams’ lead, as they were led back into the game by Francis, who finished the game with 20 points before fouling out.

“He’s the best player in the county,” Eastside coach Gregory Freeman said. “Hands down…that was a raggedy foul they called.”

With Francis out of the game, the Eagles took a team-approach to replace Francis’ scoring load, and they got it with a collective effort.

With the Eagles trailing 42-41, senior guard Larry Saxton hit a shot beyond the arc to give Eastside its first lead of the game since early in the third quarter.

However, Rams’ senior captain Jalen Glover answered the shot with a 3-point make of his own to give the Rams back the lead at 45-44.

Oduah made a layup to give the Eagles’ a 46-45 advantage, but Hawkins converted a layup to reclaim the lead and the Rams never looked back, winning the contest by six.

Rasmussen said Hawkins’ effort was much needed to help the Rams to their sixth win of the season.

“He did everything that we wanted him to do and played his usual great defense,” Rasmussen said.

The Rams took 38 shots at the foul line, converting 27 attempts.

While Francis finished in double figures, the Rams held Eastside’s Anthony Henderson and Isaiah Miller to a combined 11 points.

Newton returns to action on the road Tuesday at Morrow, while the Eagles host Monroe Area at home.