Last Friday evening, basketball fans were treated to a close, hard fought rivalry battle between Eastside and Newton’s girls basketball teams. Well, the fans that actually showed up.
It was a back-and-forth battle until the end when Eastside pulled away for a 48-40 win. However, instead of Newton High School’s gymnasium, it felt like the game was being played in the school’s library.
In fact, when I approached the gym to cover the game, I suspected that the game was either canceled or rescheduled because I heard very little commotion from the open gym doors.
Then, when I entered, there were way more seats open than were filled.
Newton County, I implore each one of us to do better. No athletic event — much less a game featuring two Newton County teams — should feel like that.When we plan to attend a basketball game, let’s not just arrive for the boys games, but make it a point to show up for the girls.
Because, on Friday night, there were some exciting moments.
For instance, there were plenty of occasions when Eastside’s Jailyn Williams connected with teammate Kaliel Kracht on a perfectly executed pick and roll. Newton’s Zoey Jackson seemingly placed the Lady Rams on her back at one point in the fourth quarter with a stretch of forced turnovers, assists and crucial shots. And that’s not to mention the double-double freshman Donee Morain recorded for the Lady Eagles as well.
All of this action was missed by most of the Newton County fans, unfortunately.
Not only that, but the entire event was watered down all night.
From the jump, there was barely any music being played and Newton head coach Jawan Bailey served as the night’s public address announcer. But he only had time to announce Georgia High School Association’s sportsmanship statement because, you know, he’s the head girls basketball coach.
That to me is unacceptable when you’re talking about a Class AAAAA and Class AAAAAAA matchup, which is also a rivalry contest. We must do better, Newton County.
Now, with that said, I want to highlight a few individuals who still attended Friday’s game.
One of the first people I noticed in attendance was Newton’s principal Dr. Shannon Buff. Former Lady Rams head coach Tiffani Johnson was there as well as Newton’s defensive coordinator Josh Skelton and Newton’s head baseball coach Derwin McNealy.
Members of the Rams’ football and baseball teams showed their support, too, and many other prominent figures showed up in the stands.
Eastside’s side of the gym wasn’t much better as it seemed like only parents of players and a few others were in attendance. My apologies in advance if I overlooked anyone from my angle in the gym. But, if you showed up, I commend you.
I tip my hat to those individuals for making the effort and coming to watch the Lady Eagles and Lady Rams who obviously prepared and played hard all night scrapping and clawing for a win.
To the rest of Newton County, I promise you won’t be disappointed to spend your money and time at any local girls basketball game. In fact, you might be more entertained and impressed watching them play than you will watching any of the boys teams play.
And I know what you’re thinking, “Phillip, this is the case everywhere.” Well, I believe Newton County can lead the charge and set the example for surrounding areas and the rest of Georgia on how to show up and support all basketball teams.
So, I hope next time I’m at a local basketball game, I see more faces in the stands, louder cheers from fans and that it actually feels like I’m at a basketball game instead of a library.