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PREP BASKETBALL: Rams Advance To Sweet 16
Castle comes up clutch to help Rams down Indians 62-57
Newton's Stephon Castle (2) dribbles toward the basket against McEachern during the first round of the GHSA 7A State Basketball Playoffs. The Rams won that game 62-57, and Castle — now a UCONN signee — is the odds-on favorite to win Region 4-AAAAAAA Player of the Year honors. - photo by Anthony Banks | The Covington News

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton, led by Stephon Castle’s fourth quarter heroics, edged past McEachern 62-57 in the first round of the Class 7A state playoffs on Feb. 22. 

As the game drew close down the stretch, Castle came up clutch to help lift the Rams past the Indians. 

With 6.5 seconds left, Castle collected a rebound off a McEachern miss and was fouled. With the score 60-57 in favor of the Rams, Castle went to the charity stripe with a chance to ice the game. 

And that he did. 

The reigning Region 4-AAAAAAA Player of the Year knocked both free throw attempts down to give Newton its definitive 62-57 advantage. 

Castle’s free throws capped off a 10-point fourth quarter while going 6-for-6 at the free-throw line. 

Head coach Charlemagne Gibbons was not shocked by the junior guard’s performance. 

“Offensively, he’s been good all year long,” Gibbons said. “That’s why he’s one of the best players in the state.”

While Castle contributed all game, there was a moment in the fourth quarter where he seemed to become more aggressive on the offensive end. 

With 2:51 remaining in the game, the score stood 54-54. 

Seeing McEachern go on a 12-6 run to knot things up, Gibbons elected to use a timeout. Coming out of the 30-second timeout, Castle began attacking the paint and either earning tough buckets or drawing fouls. 

Each time, the UConn commit made the Indians pay, and that seemed to be the difference in the final outcome. 

Before the match even tipped off, Gibbons knew without a doubt that his team was in for a tough night. 

These two teams met toward the beginning of the season on Nov. 27, 2021. The Rams won 82-77, but Gibbons stressed how a lot has changed since that inaugural matchup. 

“The first one is the hardest one,” Gibbons said. “We played [McEachern] earlier in the year. That’s not the same team we played then. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even watch the film of the first game, because I knew they weren’t the same team.” 

But it wasn’t a solo effort on Castle’s part to pull out a second straight win over the Indians this season. MJ Whitlock and Marquavious Brown scored 10 points apiece while Jakai Newton recorded eight points, too. 

Even though these four individuals’ contributions showed up in the stat book, Gibbons stressed how every member played an integral part in the win. And, according to Gibbons, it will take that same effort to fuel a deep state playoff run. 

“Tonight, everybody brought their piece,” Gibbons said. “We had guys play for 30 seconds and made huge contributions in that time. And that’s what the playoffs are about. During the regular season, that’s individual awards. [The state playoffs] are just for bringing your piece of the puzzle and we can gut-check a win like that. And that’s huge during this time.” 

Following Tuesday’s win, Newton advances to the Sweet 16 of the Class 7A playoffs and will face the winner of West Forsyth versus Mill Creek.