LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — The second leg of Friday night’s doubleheader between Newton High School and Archer High School saw a pair of top-10 teams squaring off in a battle for the No. 3 spot in the Region 8-AAAAAAA tournament.
Playing in front of a packed-out crowd on Senior Night, the No. 6 Tigers defended their home court adequately by leading wire-to-wire en route to an 75-64 point win over the No. 10 Rams. Archer moved to 16-8 on the year and 5-4 in region play, while Newton fell to 17-7 overall and 5-4 against league opponents.
Newton head coach Charlamagne Gibbons spoke dejectedly about the state of his club’s chemistry following the loss. Standing inside a hallway in the depths of Archer’s gymnasium, he opened up about the Rams’ lack of cohesion, which he felt impacted them on the court against the Tigers.
“The hardest thing for kids to do is block out voices that are all around them,” Gibbons said. “Everybody is going to cheer for you individually, but you have to lock in with your teammates and be a team. And it starts at the top with me. If I’m the coach, I need to do a better job of figuring out our team chemistry.”
Archer took control of the game from the opening tip.
The Tigers bullied their way to a 20-12 advantage in the first quarter and stretched it out to 41-24 by halftime. But Newton wasn’t content with going away so easily.
Trailing 58-43 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Rams began to chip away at their deficit. They pulled as close as 64-58 with 3:20 left in regulation, but the Tigers eventually clamped down and stymied the comeback attempt.
“We’re down 20 [points] and we cut it six with less than four minutes to go, and our bench was as dead as a doorknob,” Gibbons bemoaned. “That just kind of sums up where our energy level is for each other.”
Gibbons added that he believes his team posseses the talent needed to produce a run in the region and state tournaments in February. The question will be whether or not they choose to come together as a unit and capitalize on their combined skill.
This year’s Region 8 tournament will be hosted by Shiloh High School in Snellville. Newton will enter the Region 8 tournament as the No. 4 seed and will square off against No. 5 Rockdale in the first round Wednesday, Feb. 5, at 4:30 p.m.
“When these kids are right, man, they’re really, really good. If we play together as a team, we can make a hell of a run. If we don’t play together as a team, postseason workouts will start in two weeks. It’s pretty simple,” Gibbons concluded.