MADISON, Ga. - The Newton Rams went on the road to head coach Charlemagne Gibbons old stomping grounds and led from start to finish against the Morgan County Bulldogs in a 74-47 win.
Although this was win number one for Gibbons at Newton, he was less concerned with the number of the win and more concerned about earning the win itself.
"I mean obviously the win feels good, but any time you get a chance to get a win because they're few and far between, you celebrate them all," Gibbons said. "We would have hoped to do a few things better, but we had some good things, and we had some bad things."
The Rams started off slowly, only scoring 29 points in the first half while holding a slim 7-point lead over the Bulldogs. Jordan Marshall paced the Rams in scoring in the first half with 12 points and would finish with that total.
Marshall was a player Gibbons said could surprise some people this season, and although this was a nice start, he is expecting even more from him.
"He can give me more, and I know that he can," Gibbons said. "I just have to get these guys to understand that there are certain ways you can play through the course of the game."
With Marshall leading the way, it meant that star guards Caleb Byrd and Shawn Smith were having a slow night out of the gates. Byrd only had 3 points in the first half, while Smith had zero, and his early foul trouble did not help. With the team's go-to guys struggling in the beginning, other Rams needed to pick up the slack.
One Ram who did that in a big way in the first half was freshman Marquavious "Qua" Brown. Brown was the team's second-leading scorer at half time with 10 points and would add on two more to finish with 12. Brown will definitely be a guy to watch moving forward as he could end up being one of the better players in Georgia for the 2023 class.
Byrd eventually got going in the second half as he would work his way up the stat sheet and finish as the all-around leading scorer with 18 points. Smith's foul trouble hindered his ability to play and put up points, but Gibbons has no doubts that he will get it going and he let Smith know that.
"I can tell you this, Shawn wants to win. He's in a good place, and he wants to win, so he's more worried about the score than anything else," Gibbons said. "So, we just had a pleasant conversation about the game and moving forward."
In the second half, it felt as if Tre Clark had come back for another year of high school basketball and changed his number to 23 as younger brother T.J. absolutely shined. The younger Clark finished as the team's second-leading scorer and should be yet another reliable scoring option for the Rams this season.
A 27-point victory usually makes finding areas of improvement tough, but Gibbons knows they can definitely clean up a few key areas to become an elite team.
"Defensively, we weren't very good, and we have to communicate more," said Gibbons. "We have got to learn to share the basketball, and it can't be forced. I think right now, everyone wants to be a home run hitter, but we've got to learn to move it, share it and get everybody else open."
This was an impressive start for the Rams under the Gibbons regime, and if they can continue to play like that, they look poised to be one of the elite teams in AAAAAAA.