COVINGTON, Ga. - The No.5 Newton Rams (13-4, 3-1) came out slow in the second half against the No. 2 Shiloh Generals (16-1, 3-1), and the Generals quickly took advantage of the Rams struggles en route to an 80-65 victory.
The Rams trailed by one point at the halftime break as the Generals led by a 38-37 margin. Rams head coach Charlemagne Gibbons was pleased with how his team started the game and competed with one of the state's better teams.
It was the second half where the Generals took complete control of the game and swung the game in their favor. The Generals would go on a 16-4 run to start the third quarter and would not look back as they coasted to victory from that point.
The Rams played with some different lineups with Jordan Marshall out, and Gibbons believes that some of the younger guys that tried to fill his role were still trying to figure things out on the court, and that's what led to the one-sided final.
"A little bit of it is that we have a young team and when you string together that many wins in a row, we forget what we were good at, and I felt like that's what happened in the second half," Gibbons said. "They brought a higher level of energy and guys tonight just didn't have it. They were the better team and kicked our tail tonight, and there's not much you can say past that."
Gibbons also mentioned that his team had bad practices back-to-back previous to this match, so getting back to having better practices is something they will have to do.
A few new faces earning minutes for the Rams was freshman Jakai Newton, who got involved in the later stages of the game, and Doug Moore, who adds a much-needed inside presence on a team that lacks length in their frontcourt.
"Doug did what he had to do to meet the requirements for our team and Jakai is just a young player, he's going to be a good player. He's been out all summer long, so just trying to get him back incorporated into the fold," Gibbons said. "You kind of get that chemistry thing too when you get new guys back in the fold, but that's still no reason for the way we played in the second half."
Despite the Rams' offensive struggles, a few Rams shined on the evening in putting points on the board. Caleb Byrd was the man for the Rams and continued to lead his team in scoring with 20 points.
Following Byrd was T.J. Clark, who finished with 17 points and has become more and more of a go-to scorer in his sophomore season. Clark started the game off on fire, and it seemed as if he could not miss from beyond the arc as he knocked down four 3-pointers in the first half.
Clark's hot play would be slowed down in the second half by the Generals as he only scored once in the final 16 minutes of play. Equalling Clark's point total was Max Calloway, who played a reverse game of Clark as the majority of his points came in the second half.
Calloway has shown the ability to hit from deep throughout the season, but to see him emerge as one of the team's leading scorers against a caliber of a team like Shiloh should be a pleasant surprise for coach Gibbons.
Despite the strong showings from these three Rams, Gibbons made it known that regardless of what the stat book read, there's only one stat that he holds the most important in his mind.
"No, the reason why I say no because this isn't a team that we go check the stat book at the end of the game, we're only looking at the scoreboard. Tonight, I thought we were more worried about the stat book than the scoreboard," Gibbons said. "I told the guys after the game that we were emotionally selfish tonight. We kind of saw not bad on the floor, but I could tell as a coach that we weren't where we've been with each other.
The Rams cannot let this loss deter them as another quality region game is just around the corner, with the No.10 Archer Tigers (13-5, 2-2) marching into Newton High School on Friday, Jan. 10. Gibbons knows that because of the quality of his team's region, they have to quickly move on from this loss and prepare for their upcoming opponent.
"In this region, you're battling every night. So whether it's a big loss or a little loss, there's a chance for you to go on a bad run at any moment when you start talking about at Shiloh, at Archer, at Grayson, Rockdale, South Gwinnett," Gibbons said. "It's tough every single night. We just gotta recap and get our guys back together and get ready to go play on Friday."