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STOVALL: 3 hot takes on tonight's Newton-Grayson boys basketball action
Newton's Ashton Hagans goes up for a flush in the Rams' win over Westside-Macon in the final game of the first annual Covington News Super 8 Showcase. - photo by Anthony Banks

As if the road wasn’t already tough for the No. 3 Newton Rams (17-3, 4-1) boys basketball team, tonight it gets tougher as Newton travels to No. 5 Grayson (16-3, 5-1) to try and avenge its only region loss of the season. 

Here are a few things to expect from tonight’s game: 

1. A packed house in the middle of the week. That may be rare for a Tuesday, and granted it may not be exactly what you would get on a Friday or Saturday night, but it cannot be overstated how huge of a game this is, not just for the region, but for the state. Media will be there in droves, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few folks trying to get off work a little early to push through Gwinnett County rush hour traffic to get a seat for this one. If you like high quality high school hoops, get there. 

2. A playoff atmosphere. We talked about how Saturday’s game at Morgan County was such, really for both the girls and boys games, and we expect tonight at Grayson to be no different, particularly in terms of the way these two schools will go at each other. In fact, let’s just go on record and say the intensity may be even thicker than Saturday because, as good as that Morgan County game was, it doesn’t hold the weight and post season implications that tonight at Grayson holds. The winner gets pole position in Region 8-AAAAAAA, as well as a top five team’s feather in their cap. 

3. Marquee individual matchups. Ashton Hagans vs. Nick Edwards. That’ll be a good matchup of quality 7A guards. Edwards is coming off a couple of big performances over the last week or so, including 27 points against region foe Archer, and being credited with the game-winner to dispatch of Langston Hughes in the Blue Collar Basketball Showcase. Then, Newton having 6-foot-5 Dre Butler back in the starting lineup to bang down low against Grayson’s length and height will be fun to watch. But don’t sleep on Grayson guard Deivon Smith (22 points against Archer), whose presence rounds out a more-than-solid Grayson backcourt. Likewise, Newton’s 6-foot-6 junior forward, Armani Harris continues to improve as his confidence builds. He'll be needed to help battle Grayson's bigs.

My prediction: A fast paced, high intensity tight ballgame with one of the more unsung players on either team having a big night. I’ll say Newton gets some get-back tonight: Newton 68, Grayson 65. Expect a third installment of the “Battle of the Rams” next month at Newton in the Region 8-AAAAAAA tournament championship game.