COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton boys basketball Region 4-AAAAAAA opening 54-50 win against Archer on Tuesday featured a lot of intense moments. But one moment in particular stood out above the rest.
Stephon Castle — a 5 star UCONN commit — drove toward the basket with less than two minutes left in the third. On the pursuit, Castle was fouled hard in mid air and slammed to the floor.
It took a few minutes for the senior guard to get up and walk to the bench. What came next was awe-inspiring.
After being out from the 1:50 mark in the third to the 6:03 mark in the fourth, Castle didn't take long to remind Archer he was back.
Sporting a band-aid on his chin from the fall, Castle blocked a Tigers shot and sent the gym into a frenzy less than 30 seconds after returning to the court.
Head coach Charlemagne Gibbons highlighted that moment as symbolic of what he's seen from this Rams team before the season even commenced.
“These guys want it,” Gibbons said. “I said it in the preseason. The difference between this group compared to last year is that these boys want it. They’re not messing around. It wasn’t great tonight, but they fought.”
Tuesday's win is Newton's 11th consecutive regular season win in region play. In fact, the Rams haven't lost a Region 4-AAAAAAA matchup since Feb. 16, 2021 against Grayson.
Gibbons labeled the region classification as the "toughest in the nation." Which is why, according to Newton's head coach, it was important for his team to begin this year's region slate at 1-0.
“You don’t want to try and get this game back late in the season, because Archer is going to be right there contending for a top spot in the region,” Gibbons said. “So, you don’t want to have to go and have a must win game at Archer.”
The Rams' win came just three days after it traveled to Texas to play what many outlets consider the No. 1 team in the nation, Duncanville.
Newton came up short losing 80-76 despite Castle recording a 41-point night. A week prior, the Rams suffered its first loss of the season falling by six points to McEachern.
The Rams came out of the gate hot, though, to begin the season. They enjoyed a near 30-point victory over Mays in the season opener followed by a 67-61 triumph over Grovetown.
So far this season, Newton has been playing without 4-star Indiana signee Jakai Newton who is dealing with a knee injury. But he’s expected to return sometime in January.
Gibbons stressed you can’t replace a player of Jakai’s stature. But, Timothy Prather, Ben Hodges, Ted Neal, AJ Belcher and Jabez Jenkins were mentioned by Gibbons as players who have stepped up in bigger roles.
Moving forward, the schedule doesn't get any easier.
Up next, Newton (3-2, 1-0) hits the road to face Norcross, the team that eliminated the Rams last year in the Final Four, followed by a contest with Lake Highlands out of Dallas, Texas.
Following Tuesday's win, Gibbons stressed the importance of his team to compete with constant play each and every play to improve their chances.
“I told the guys [after the game], ‘Let’s be consistent,’” Gibbons said. “It’s hard as a coaching staff to have a bunch of inconsistent guys, because you don't know who’s going to do what at what time. When you’re consistent and have a good coaching staff, we can figure out how to use guys in their best moments.”