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PREP BASKETBALL: Newton squads ready to take on ranked Grayson teams
Armani Harris
Newton senior, Armani Harris drives to the goal en route to two of his 24 points in the eighth-ranked Rams' Region 8-AAAAAAA win over South Gwinnett Friday. -photo by Matthew Grimes

COVINGTON, Ga. — It was an up and down weekend for the Newton Rams boys basketball team. But come Tuesday, it’ll hope to see another upward trend.

The Newton Rams took care of business Friday night against the South Gwinnett Comets en route to their first Class AAAAAAA region 8 victory of the season. In a tough, physical matchup, the Rams brought home the 61-52 win.

Though this game may have been remembered for the high-strung emotions, scrappy play and Rams’ injuries, senior power forward, Armani Harris made sure to have a memorable night on the court, dropping 24 points and playing a key role in the Rams’ performance. 

Harris said the key to his strategy for attacking the Comet defense was to “just go at them and keep playing physical.”

Though his physical play lead the way, his opening bucket of the night was of the finesse variety — a deep 3-pointer which showed off the much-improved perimeter aspect of his game. 

Tre Clark, who put up seven of his fifteen points in the first, helped pushed the Rams out to a 15-11 advantage after the first quarter, and though it was a nip-and-tuck game throughout, Newton never really surrendered control of the game. 

During the fourth quarter against South Gwinnett, three Rams, Harris, Clark and junior guard, Shawn Smith, went down with injury, but all three players bounced back. For Saturday’s game with 2017-18 Class AAAA runner-up St. Pius X. 

But Newton coach Rick Rasmussen was without sharpshooter, Tyrease Brown for both the South Gwinnett game and against St. Pius X Saturday after suffering a concussion in the waning moments of the Lambert game. 

Newton lost to St. Pius, 56-50 while also missing Mike Mathison who was on his official football visit to Chattanooga. But Rasmussen will get both of his guards back in time to face No. 8 Grayson (7-2) on the road Tuesday night in a game many believe is a matchup between the top two teams in Region 8-AAAAAAA.

“It should be a great game,” Rasmussen said. “Would love to see a good road crowd supporting our teams. This is a key early-season matchup that will help decide who is on top of the region standings during holiday break. We’re glad to have our full team again, as Ty and Mike play integral roles for us.” 

For the Rams of Gwinnett County, it’ll be their first Region test of the season. Grayson won on back-to-back nights, defeating Loganville 65-43 on the road and then getting past ELCA 8—71 Saturday in the Sandy’s Spiel Classic.

Jada Franklin
Newton's Jada Franklin drives the lane during the Lady Rams' Region 8-AAAAAAA opening win against South Gwinnett Friday. -photo by Matthew Grimes

Meanwhile, the Newton Lady Rams, after getting off to a rough 0-3 start, will look to extend its two-game winning streak and even its record with a win over No. 6 Grayson (6-1) Tuesday evening. 

Coach Tiffani Johnson faces a different kind of challenge this year as she guides a team that so far seems void of the scoring power of last year’s Class AAAAAAA state runner-up squad. 

After dropping their first three games of the season to Greater Atlanta Christian, Heritage and Class AAAAAA No. 2 Forest Park, the Lady Rams bounced back with a 47-31 win over Alcovy and a 45-18 pasting of South Gwinnett. 

Johnson said that though her goal is for her team to win each time it steps out on the court, the slow start is no reason to push the panic button. 

“This is a whole new set of girls who are still learning how to win ball games,” Johnson said. “They’re young, but the season’s still early. So our focus now is to just keep working to get better. You hope that around January you can really hit that stride and start becoming the team you want to be. That’s what we’re hoping for.” 

After the Lady Rams meet Grayson, they’ll face Sandy Creek Friday at 4 p.m. and then will travel to Archer High to play Class AAAAA No. 2 Buford (6-0) Saturday in the Gwinnett Challenge.

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*Matthew Grimes contributed to this report.