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Newton/Eastside Rivalry renewed
Men and women's alumni set to face off
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Local barbershop conversations are always fascinating to say the least, as people of all ages convene to talk that talk and hopefully get a decent haircut.

When these conversations transition to sports, it usually becomes a never-ending debate of which legend from which era is better. You’ve probably heard these tantalizing diatribes between the “seasoned veteran” with yoda-like wisdom of the game and the “young buck” who’s not as knowledgeable but a fan nonetheless.

In regards to the NBA, these conversations usually begin with, “Who’s better? Jordan or Lebron?” Insert the occasional “don’t forget about Kobe” fan chiming in, and you’ve got yourself some classic, yet cliché, conversation. Ever heard that one before? Yeah, me neither.

However, on Saturday at Newton 4 p.m., a different debate will be settled. For the second time in three years Newton High School will take on Eastside High School in an alumni basketball game. There will be a men’s and women’s game featuring players from as far back as Newton’s 1983 graduating class. Players from Eastside’s first graduating class (‘98/’99) will also participate.

Some notable players from Newton include: Director of the Newton County recreation department Anthony Avery, Kellie Wyatt, Assistant Principal at Livingston Elementary Geri Hawkins, Assistant Coach at South Gwinnett High School Kantrail Horton, Rams’ girls head coach Tiffany Johnson and Rams’ assistant girl’s JV coach TaKeita Bell.
Some notable players from Eastside include: Otravious Benson, Bruce Smith, Neil Latimore, Jerrick Bell, Reggie Hunter, Mike Benton and Assistant Coach at Eastside Marquis Gilstrap.

Many of these players bring college basketball experience to the court, and some bring professional experience as well. Gilstrap, Horton and Benton have either played some NBA-DL and/or played professionally overseas.
Gilstrap and Horton both played ball at Iowa State, though not at the same time. Gilstrap spent some time playing in Slovakia after making the summer league team of the Charlotte Bobcats. Horton has played on many teams overseas. He has played in New Zealand, Portugal, Austria and Italy, just to name a few. Another journeyman himself, Benton has played in Greece, Spain and Turkey.

“Mostly we were just trying to get together to come back and show the younger kids that when you leave and come back you still help the community out,” Bell said.

According to Bell, there will also be a free throw contest to see who can hit the most free throws in a row. In addition, fans will have the opportunity to participate in the festivities by taking half-court shots throughout the game and during halftime. There will also be a shooting contest and some performances.

“There’s a three point contest, so we basically have two shooters, one on each end of the court. You’ll have one minute and you have five spots, so whoever wins that round will go to the next round and then you’ll play the championship round,” Bell said.

“We have local groups from Live Oak Elementary and from West Newton Elementary that’ll be performing,” Bell said.

The teams will play two 20 minute halves with the clock running continuously, according to Bell. There will be official referees, and the score is being taken.

“Everything is regulation,” Bell said.

According to, since 2005 Newton has dominated the men’s basketball rivalry between the two teams, as it holds a 15-3 record against Eastside. The women of Newton have represented their school even better, with an 11-1 record against Eastside since 2006.

The last alumni game, which took place in 2012, was nothing short of spectacular. The game ended in thrilling fashion, with the Rams edging the Eagles, 106-104 in double overtime.

Despite the obvious rivalry, this alumni game isn’t just about settling an old score – to those playing, it’s more than that.

As Gilstrap’s Eagles look to right the ship from the loss suffered two years ago, we’ll find out if Newton can continue its reign over the Eagles, which has lasted for almost a decade.