It's been a productive first part of the season for both Newton and Eastside, with 11 wins (prior to Newton's matchup with Jackson, Atlanta today) coming together on the Rams' court.
Newton got the season started with four straight wins, including a 47-43 victory over cross-town rival Alcovy, before a victory over Jackson sandwiched its only two losses, both close.
Eastside, which finished last season with a 15-14 record, has begun the season with wins in each of its six games. The Eagles have done so behind a quick-paced scoring offense, led by Quindarrius Russell, Anthony Henderson and Treyvon Francis.
After scoring 14 points in Tuesday's 60-47 win over Walnut Grove, Russell is averaging 20.6 points per game and Henderson is next averaging 14.6 points per game, all starting with Francis at point guard.
"Their point guard is a really good facilitator," Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said. "We're looking forward to playing them. I know they've gotten off to a solid start. Hopefully, we'll play well because we're going to need to play well."
The Rams have been playing well, especially on the defensive end, throughout the early season. Newton allowed just 27 points in its previous win, and has given up more than 45 points just once in five wins. With all but one of those wins coming on the road.
"We're excited about having a two-game homestand," Rasmussen said of Jackson and Eastside. "It will be nice to be at home."
The Rams are welcoming Eastside, as it is scoring 64 points per game with several players stepping up in the scoring column. However, Newton is giving up just 42 points per game, 12 better than the Eagles. The Rams are scoring 49.3 points per game.
"We preach defense first," Rasmussen said. "Offense wins games but defense wins championships. We're looking forward to playing against a team that's feeling confident and is good. We're looking forward to the challenge."
The Rams have proven up to the challenge in most of the two teams past 16 meetings since 2004. Newton has won three straight since Eastside's lone win, 52-49 on Dec. 4, 2010.
Since then, Newton has won 50-33 and 60-29 and 66-26, both coming last season.
"We're looking forward to it," Rasmussen said. "It's always fun to play one of our rivals. We've done well against them but what you've done in the past doesn't help you that day. Every year a team is different, and so far this year they're off to a good start."
The game will also go to deciding which team can lay claim to the best in Newton County. Both Newton and Eastside have beaten Alcovy, with the Eagles picking up a 62-48 win on Nov. 30. With Eastside being in a different region, 8-AAAA, than Newton and Alcovy, both in 2-AAAAAA, it will be the last meeting between the Eagles and either of the two other area schools. The event will be sure to draw a crowd to see Newton's top hoops team.
"We're looking forward to the rivalry game," Rasmussen said. "We hope we have a big crowd, and hope it's important to the community and a lot of people come out to watch it."
Eastside will head out of town after the game with a tournament at Macon's Rutland High from Dec. 20-22 and then another in Milledgeville on Dec. 27-29. The Rams also head to a holiday tournament, traveling to Dallas County, Ala. for the Yule Tide Christmas Classic from Dec. 27-29.