LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — Playing on the road at Archer High School, the Newton Rams had to bring their A game every minute to squeak out a 61-60 victory Tuesday night.
The outcome was determined on the final play of the game.
Clinging to a one-point lead with 10.4 seconds remaining, Jakai Newton missed a free throw attempt. Archer gathered the rebound and stormed down the court.
It got all the way to its respective basket and attempted a layup that hit the left side of the rim.
As the buzzer sounded, the ball clinked off the rim and out and found its way into the hands of Mio Grant.
Newton’s side of the gymnasium bolted with celebration as the Rams walked off the court still undefeated at 5-0.
Head coach Charlemagne Gibbons highlighted his team’s toughness to grind out a crucial win.
“The work pays off,” Gibbons said. “Physically, I thought we got beat up pretty good tonight, but our guys just fought through it. In the locker [at halftime], we said, ‘Listen, trust the work that you’ve done all year long. Don’t panic, don’t look in the stands and don’t look at the refs, just trust the work you’ve done.’”
It was all hands on deck for the Rams to come out on top.
The Rams’ biggest contribution was from Marcus Whitlock, who came in off the bench and dropped a team-high 18 points.
Not only was the amount crucial, but also the timing of the points.
Particularly in the second quarter, Whitlock connected on back-to-back three-pointers to give his team a five-point lead at halftime. He made another shot from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter that answered an Archer three-pointer a possession early.
While Whitlock comes off the bench, Gibbons views his talent as one of the best on the team.
“That kid is really [darn] good,” Gibbons said emphatically. “He may be one of the most consistent guys on this team. Tonight was just who he is. It wasn’t any more special than what he did the other nights.”
Even so, other Rams players helped propel them to the victory.
Stephon Castle, a UConn commit, scored 17 points and helped captain the ship most of the night. Meanwhile, Grant provided the tough, physical paint presence scoring 11 points and coming down with some hard earned rebounds when his team needed them most.
Gibbons said it was a team effort for Newton to come away with the win. Throughout the game, the Rams’ head coach saw a lot of development from where his team was last season.
“We lost two of these games last year,” Gibbons said. “[A win like this] shows guys’ growth from last year to this year. It’s funny because I told them before that our growth on film is big.”
Newton played at Rockdale County on Friday and plays Eastside on Dec. 7.