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Newton boys basketball suffers third straight Region 4-7A title game loss to Grayson
NHS Region title
Newton's Stephon Castle (2) makes a pass early during the region 4-AAAAAAA championship game against Grayson - photo by Anthony Banks

COVINGTON, Ga. — Friday’s game was deja vu for the Newton boys basketball team as it suffered a 62-49 loss to Grayson. It is the Rams' third straight region title defeat at the hands of Grayson. 

Therefore, Newton remains looking for the program’s first region title since the Rams won three straight region crowns from 2016-2018. 

Head coach Charlemagne Gibbons feels like, despite the outcome, Friday will just add fuel to the Rams’ push for a state title. 

“Yeah, tonight was a big opportunity to win the region championship, which we wanted to do,” Gibbons said. “But, at the end of the day, it’s just another dress rehearsal as we get ready for the real deal.” 

One particular moment defined this game. 

Stephon Castle exited the action at the 6:50 mark of the second quarter after sustaining an apparent eye injury. And, though other Rams’ players stepped up to keep the ship steady in Castle’s absence, Grayson took advantage in the third quarter. 

In the eight-minute frame, Grayson outscored Newton 23-10, which provided enough cushion down the stretch. 

That cushion seemed fleeting at one juncture, though. 

Entering the fourth quarter, Newton trailed 49-34. That was until the Rams went on a 10-2 run to draw within seven. 

Newton fans exploded out of their seats following a series in which Jakai Newton blocked a shot and Castle drove the length of the court for a layup with an and-1 opportunity to boot. 

Grayson’s lead dwindled to 51-44 and it immediately called a timeout. Out of the break, it seemed to regather itself because, from that point on, it started pulling away once again. 

Despite missing a significant portion of the game, Castle still led the Rams with 13 points followed by Newton with 11. Jabez Jenkins also contributed eight points along with Timothy Prather’s six and Marcus Whitlock’s five points. 

Ultimately, the Rams could never recover from the deficit it faced in the third quarter. 

Gibbons pointed to the lack of “rhythm” by his players coming out of halftime. 

“We just couldn’t find a rhythm,” Gibbons said. “That’s with their defense and their size, but we couldn’t find a rhythm and we probably weren’t as patient as we needed to be.” 

Even so, Friday's game had an awe-inspiring moment. 

Castle took on the entire Grayson defense breathing down his neck to attempt a shot at the time of injury. He was fouled on the try and fell to the floor. 

Athletic trainer Jendayi Watkins rushed full court to Castle's aid. Following a few moments, assistant athletic director Camiel Grant Jr. called for a wheelchair, but the reigning Region 4-AAAAAAA Player of the Year ran the other way back toward the Rams' bench. 

The moment brought a chilling effect to Newton's gym as both sets of fans cheered and clapped for Castle’s response. 

Gibbons recognized the moment as something bigger than basketball. 

“I think anybody that’s a competitor doesn’t want to roll off in a wheelchair,” Gibbons said. “I think for him, he just wanted to let everybody know he’s going to fight and compete.” 

Another moment transpired after the final buzzer sounded, too. There seemed to be a scuffle between coaching staffs in the postgame activities. So much so that Gibbons as well as assistant coaches had to be separated from the commotion. 

Gibbons relayed his side of the story outside his office moments following the game. 

“One thing I teach my kids is we’re not going to tolerate disrespect towards women,” Gibbons said. “And that’s what we felt was happening at the time that [Grayson] was being very disrespectful to our principal when she was trying to coordinate and keep things in order. I don’t tolerate that as an individual and I don’t teach my team to tolerate that. 

“I don’t feel any way about my actions except defending what I thought was right.” 

Now the Rams will shift their focus to the state playoffs. Since before the season commenced in mid-November, Newton has expressed their craving for a state title. 

But first things first: The Rams will host the winner between Harrison (11-4, 2-6) from Region 3-AAAAAAA. 

Newton’s first round matchup will be played on its home court on either Feb. 21 or 22. 

Gibbons is confident his team can rebound from Friday’s outcome and refocus on the task at hand. 

“The real season starts when the state tournament starts,” Gibbons said. “All of the rest of this is just a dress rehearsal.”