Monday afternoon on the hardwood, Newton High women's varsity basketball coach Tiffani Johnson pulled her team together for a quick talk.
The Lady Rams weren't playing an official game just yet, but they were taking on a group of determined freshman men's team players, who wanted to prove themselves in practice.
Racing up and down the court, the women's team got a dose of reality, as the freshman squad outscored them 28-8 in the first eight minutes of action.
Johnson said that the drill wasn't to punish her squad, but to get the players ready for the season.
"(Playing the guys) gives us a chance to play against a team that is faster and stronger," Johnson said. "What are we going to do when we’re faced with that? That’s what I want to see from them. Of course it is easy to play against a team that is weaker than you and slower than you, but what are you going to do when you play someone better? That’s what I want to test them with now so that when the season comes, we’re ready to go."
Johnson and the Lady Rams return a seasoned, veteran team of seven seniors this year, and after reaching the Sweet 16 last season, the Lady Rams are ready to get this season started.
"Experience is going to be a big help for this team this year," Johnson said. "We have seven seniors returning from a team that went to the Sweet 16 last year. They’ve gone to the playoffs the last three years in a row, and I think they understand what it takes to go even further. We just have to see if they can use that this year."
Johnson said that for the Lady Rams to go further into the playoffs, they'll need their core group of leaders to step up.
"We're going to be leaning on our seniors, including Precious Price, Torri Pharr and Deandra Reed," Johnson said. "All of my seniors will carry a heavy weight this season. They are responsible for a lot of what we do. They are all going to play an important role.
"Those seven are going to stand out and to lead and carry this team where it needs to go," she said.
With their experience, Johnson said, you can expect the Lady Rams to get out and run this year.
"I just like my girls to get up and down," she said. "Defensively, we like to get after it. We do it all with intensity. I want them to play basketball. They’re not going to be robots on the court; they’re going to be able to go into any program after high school and be able to play basketball."
Johnson said that as for how Newton progresses this season, it's all up to her players.
"The one thing that I ask from them is that they go hard every practice, every game, every day," Johnson said. "My expectation for them is to leave everything they have on the floor. For my seven seniors, there is no other high school season after this. This is their last year, and I expect the best from them."
The Lady Rams will open their season on Nov. 19 at home against Alcovy at 6 p.m.