By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
PREP BASKETBALL: Newton Rams come up short against Norcross
Rams Loss
Newton’s Marquavious Brown (1) shoots over Norcross defenders during a Class 7A State semifinal game on Saturday in Buford. - photo by Anthony Banks | The Covington News

BUFORD, Ga. — Despite leading most of the game, the Newton Rams’ season came to an end in the Final Four of the Class 7A state playoffs. 

On Saturday, March 5, Newton suffered a 75-72 loss to Norcross, eliminating the Rams from playoff contention. 

According to head coach Charlemagne Gibbons, the Rams allowed Norcross to stick around early in the game instead of pulling away. 

“We gave [Norcross] opportunities and kept them in the game,” Gibbons said. “We didn’t do what we were supposed to do in certain situations. So, when you don’t, in a high-level game, this is what happens.” 

Even though the Rams came up short, they had a valiant effort down the stretch of the game to give themselves a chance to come back. 

With 40.6 seconds remaining in the contest. Newton faced a 67-60 deficit. 

From that point, the Rams seemed to heat up from 3-point range. 

Less than six seconds later, Stephon Castle nailed a 3-pointer to draw the score 69-63. After Norcross knocked down two free throws, Castle attempted the same shot but was fouled on the attempt giving him three shots at the free-throw line. 

Castle connected on all three shots making the score 71-66 with 29 seconds left. 

On the ensuing free throws, Norcross went 1-for-2. Castle then found Jakai Newton open and connected on a 3-pointer himself. 

Newton’s long-range shot made the score 72-69. 

Norcross went 1-for-2 again at the charity stripe giving itself a 73-69 advantage. Castle once again followed that up with his second 3-pointer of the quarter drawing the Rams to within one point, 73-72. 

But it was a case of too little too late for the Rams. 

Norcross knocked down two more free throws and Castle heaved a full-court shot that ricocheted off the backboard and hit the floor. 

It was an emotional scene afterward for the Rams. 

“Only one team isn’t going to cry at the end of the season,” Gibbons said. “Unfortunately, we’re not that team this year.” 

Newton received contributions from everyone despite the loss. Seemingly, the biggest contribution came from MJ Whitlock. 

The junior guard exploded off the bench for 18 second-quarter points, which included a stretch where Whitlock scored 16 straight Rams points. 

“He’s a helluva basketball player,” Gibbons said of Whitlock. “He’s done that all season. Tonight wasn’t anything special, it’s just what he does.” 

Whitlock led all Newton scorers with 20 points while Castle finished with 17 and Newton recorded 14. Marquavious Brown tallied seven points with Ashton Pennamon recording five points and Miokaye Grant having four. 

As a result of Saturday’s loss, the Rams’ season ultimately comes to an end. 

Their 2021-22 season ends at 24-6 with a perfect regular season region record of 8-0. In Region 4-AAAAAAA, Newton finished as region runner-ups losing to Grayson in the region championship game. 

On their way to the Final Four, the Rams downed McEachern, West Forsyth and Archer high schools. 

Despite the Final Four loss, Gibbons hopes this experience helps his team come back next year ready for more. 

“It’s been a long season for us,” Gibbons said. “We had a lot of ups and downs as we went through the season. So, I told the guys in the locker room, ‘just try and do everything right both on and off the court.’ That’s all I can ask guys to do. Do everything right, be a great teammate and learn from the things you didn’t do right this year and hopefully, you won’t repeat those things in your career.”