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PREP BASKETBALL: Lady Rams look to bounce back against South Gwinnett, Morgan County after Tuesday's Grayson loss
Rachel Hilliard
Newton's Rachel Hilliard goes up for two of her 16 points Tuesday against Grayson. Lady Rams coach Tiffani Johnson said she's looking to see similar results from her senior post player the rest of the way. -photo by Anthony Banks

COVINGTON, Ga. — The Newton Lady Rams (8-11, 2-4) surged back in the second half against the Grayson Lady Rams (17-2, 6-0), but the damage in the first half was too much to overcome as Newton fell Tuesday night in the Region 8-AAAAAAA matchup by a score of 68-52.

“Start how we finish.” That is what Newton head coach Tiffani Johnson said her team needed to do, if they hope to turn losses like these into wins. 

This statement could not have been more true as Newton was outscored in the first half by Grayson with a 39-19 differential.  

Newton started off the game with an opening basket from Maka’ya Cushion as she drove to the lane and put up a floater from about 12 feet out with seven minutes left to play in the first quarter. 

However, this would be the last time the Lady Rams of Newton would hold the lead as Grayson’s offense led by Nadia Howard, who gave her team its first advantage with a 3-pointer with 6:46 left to play in the first, would coast for the remainder of the first half. 

Turnovers were a problem for Newton in the opening half as Grayson did an outstanding job of closing off passing lanes and forcing steals. Grayson would follow their steals with excellent efficiency on their fast break opportunities leading to multiple easy baskets. 

Rebounding was also an issue, and Grayson’s Malia Grace was a force to be reckoned with on the boards as she pulled back multiple offensive rebounds, which gave her team plenty of second chance opportunities.

Grayson’s dominance over Newton stopped momentarily in the third quarter as the Rams’ offense came alive. Rachel Hilliard and Jada Franklin played a huge role in the team’s impressive 20-9 performance over Grayson.

Coach Johnson lauded the resilience of her team in the second half, but was still dismayed by the poor performance early on. 

“Proud of the fight, but we shouldn’t have been in that type of fight in the first place,” said Johnson. “It is good to know that we can fight back, but at the same time it is frustrating to be in that position in the first place.”

Hilliard led the third quarter with 10 points and finished with 16 points in the game, while Franklin registered a team-high 18. Johnson said she was happy with how both Franlin and Hilliard stepped up in the second half but wishes to see that high-level of play in the whole 32 minutes rather than the final 16.

Jazmin Robinson led Grayson in scoring as she closed off her night with 22 points. 

Newton’s next chance to put together a full four quarters of basketball will come Friday when a struggling South Gwinnett squad (3-14, 0-4) comes to Covington — ironic, as both these teams played for a region championship last year. 

Newton still sits at fourth in the region, a full game ahead of Shiloh. After hosting the Comets and a highly regarded Morgan County squad on Friday and Saturday, Newton’s next game won’t come until it travels to rematch Rockdale County on Friday January 29.