Like their male counterparts, the Newton Lady Rams have a promising, deep, talented and young team. The Lady Rams were a basket or two away from beating Tucker in the Region 2-AAAAAA Championship but they fell 45-41 before losing by four in the first round of the state playoffs to Colquitt County. This year Newton is deeper, more experienced and looking to right the ship with a region title and a trip beyond the first round of the playoffs.
“One of the biggest things I like is our depth this year. We are, from No. 0 all the way to our highest, No. 24, can get in and make an impact on the game. I love how deep we are and it pushes us more because we know we can cash out in a game and I still have a teammate to come help me out instead of trying to save something because you feel like you have to go the whole game,” Newton coach Tiffani Johnson said. “It’s allowing us to push a little harder and speed up our defenses and speed the game up and still maintain our energy level.
“Offensively we’re not that team that has that one go-to player. We have six or seven players that can give you 20 on any given night so I love that you cannot focus on one person to stop us.”
Newton is still playing with different lineups to see what works so they may struggle early, as they did in an exhibition match with Henry County last week. Newton trailed by 15 at halftime, but then went back to some things that worked for them and came away with a win. Johnson says games like that shows them they can do it.
Three of last year’s leading/best scorers sophomore Alexcia Chatman (19 points per game), junior Imani Broadnax (14 ppg) and Jurnee Smith (7 ppg) return along with transfer Janelle Cook (13 ppg at Eastside). Kayla Smith, Keyana Henderson and Erianna Card are also back, giving Newton more depth and a problem for a lot of defenses.
Johnson plays to take advantage of her depth and keep defenses guessing with their versatile lineups. Last year’s experiences and this year’s talent have the Lady Rams more confident in their abilities and that, Johnson hopes, will give them the edge they need.
“Before, we played and just hoped that we were in and now we know we can win ‘em and if we see the score’s not where we want it we have the confidence to dig us out and not be surprised when we’re doing so well,” Johnson said.
Newton doesn’t have a lot of size inside and that could be an issue along with having too many mouths to feed on offense, but Johnson says it’s not necessarily a weakness. Johnson sees the lack of an inside presence as a strength that makes their defense faster and their offense harder to guard while enabling a team concept instead of relying on one or two players.
Despite the promising season for Newton, the Lady Rams are taking it one game at a time, but their long-term goal is to win a region title on their home floor and to go further than the first round of the state playoffs.
“I think we’re gonna give our fans some good, exciting basketball. One thing that I want our fans to know and what we pride ourselves on is every night we’re gonna bring it on that floor,” Johnson said. “You won’t walk in that gym and say, ‘They just weren’t ready to play or they didn’t give their all.’ At the end of the day if any fans or anybody comes to the game and says, ‘Man those girls were working hard.’ Then we’ve accomplished something. That’s our goal, is to every game leave everything we have on the floor and if we do that our fans will be pleased.”
Newton begins its season with a matchup against rival Eastside on Tuesday at 7 p.m.