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PREP BASKETBALL: No. 4 Newton Lady Rams make easy work of rivals
Lexi Chatman looks for someone to pass to during the Lady Rams' win over Eastside Saturday. The senior guard is just one of several talented Newton players pushing the fourth-ranked Rams' success.

CONYERS, Ga. — The Newton Lady Rams basketball team was looking for a statement win to remain undefeated in Region 8-AAAAAAA when they faced off against the Rockdale County Lady Bulldogs Saturday. 

And thanks to a huge night from senior guard Lexi Chatman, the intensity level of the Lady Rams made handling the Bulldogs with easy as they took home a 70-44 win.

“The biggest key was playing with intensity and playing as a team,” head coach Tiffani Johnson said, “I think we did a great job of setting the tone from the jump ball tonight, and we came out ready to play.”

That intensity and cohesiveness was, indeed, well on display from the start for the fourth-ranked Lady Rams.

Newton jumped out to an 8-0 lead fairly quickly, and even as Rockdale (9-6, 0-2) scored, Newton remained persistent. After the first quarter explosion, the Rams had already built a sizable 20-9 lead — one which they would not let up.

Aided by a 12-point performance in the second quarter by Chatman, the Rams would outscore the Bulldogs 20-12, allowing them to take a 40-21 advantage into halftime.

The explosiveness of Newton’s offense, while duly noted, was not the only thing Johnson attributed her team’s Friday night success to. She noted that defensive excellence is vital in the ability to pull away from teams.

“We love for our defense to be our offense,” she said. “It gives us that extra energy we need to stay aggressive and intense.”

With the Bulldogs already in a huge hole coming out of the locker room for the second half, they began forcing shots and passes, which Newton took advantage.

As the lead grew even more, Chatman began taking more time off the court, allowing other players to sub in for some needed experience. Johnson noted that, despite how successful and productive Chatman has been as a player and teammate, she has eyes on some other standouts as well.

“Diamond Swift and Jurnee Smith did a great job handling the ball and getting everyone involved,” she said. “Erianna Card does the dirty work and brings the key hustle and energy that doesn’t show up in the stat book. Je-nya Smith came in and did a great job of being aggressive on offense in the fourth quarter.”

Rockdale could not find an answer for the depth of the Rams roster, and as time expired, Newton had created the blowout final score. It was a great way to begin a weekend of facing rivals, as the Lady Rams followed up Friday’s effort by routing in-county rival, Eastside, 72-46 Saturday night. 

The Lady Rams haven’t lost in the state of Georgia since a 48-40 setback to Harrison on Nov. 20. And Johnson says she’s liking what she sees. 

“Some of the great things I saw were our unselfishness and support and enthusiasm from the bench,” Johnson said. “We are looking for each other on the floor and sought out ways to get assists. No one cared who was putting the ball in the basket as long as they had on a Lady Ram jersey. The support from the bench kept everyone involved.”

But with the schedule getting more difficult with a settling in to the region grind, there are some aspects of the team’s game that she still believes they need to work on moving forward.

“Consistency and execution,” she said. “As we get deeper into the season, we want to consistently do the little things right like rebounding, free throws, and defense. Execution is going to be key on offense and executing game plans will be key as we progress.”

The Lady Rams will next face Shiloh in a 6 p.m. home game on Tuesday.