COVINGTON – Grayson started off Tuesday night’s game at Newton hot after knocking down three quick shots to grab an early 7-2 lead.
From that point on, however, it was a struggle.
The Rams went on to score a season-low 43 points and Newton’s Stephon Castle, who was named a McDonald’s All-American earlier in the day, poured in a game-high 19 points to help lead them to a huge 54-43 win to draw even in Region 4-AAAAAAA play.
Newton’s defense held Grayson to just 36 percent shooting from the field (16 of 45) and forced 19 turnovers on the night playing predominantly zone defense.
“I’m not a zone guy, but I’ll do whatever it takes to try and figure out how to win down the stretch of the season,” Newton head coach Charlemagne Gibbons said. “The zone was good for us tonight and hopefully if we pull it out again, it will be good for us down the road. We’re just proud of the effort of the guys and the anticipation and energy they had.”
Newton wasn’t the only defense that had it going Tuesday night.
The Grayson defense managed to hold the Rams to just 22 points in the first half on 35 percent shooting, but their offense could never get going.
After jumping out to their early 7-2 lead, the Rams went ice cold from the field and only made three more shots in the first half.
The game was tied 9-9 at the end of the first quarter and by halftime, Newton led 22-15.
Grayson held Castle in check in the first half, but the senior was big down the stretch, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half.
Both teams came out firing in the third quarter. Castle immediately knocked down a jump shot to give Netwon a 24-15 lead, but Grayson fired back with a quick 6-0 run to cut the lead to 24-21.
Grayson’s Chad Moodie nearly cut the deficit to one point after nearly throwing down a dunk and that led to Gibbons calling a timeout.
The timeout proved to be a very smart move from the veteran coach.
MJ Whitlock converted a tough layup to give Newton some breathing room and it sparked an 11-4 run to give the hosts their first 10-point lead of the game, 35-25 with 2:13 remaining in the quarter.
Newton drilled three three-pointers during that stretch, one each from Castle, Tim Prather and Jabez Jenkins.
Grayson managed to end the quarter on a positive note and trailed Newton 40-34 heading into the fourth. Both teams shot 7 of 13 from the field in the quarter.
The game reverted back to being a defensive struggle in the fourth quarter.The first made basket didn’t come until 5:14 remaining, but eventually, it was Newton who found enough offense to pull away.
Castle converted a big And-1 with 3:12 left and then dunked a minute later.
That gave Newton a 49-39 lead with 2:24 left to play and Jenkins later put the game on ice after grabbing an offensive rebound and converting an And-1 on their next offensive possession.
After shooting just 35 percent from the field in the first half, Newton shot 54 percent in the second half. Whitlock finished his night with 16 points and Jenkins scored eight.
Grayson’s Gicarri Harris ground out a 15-point performance with 10 coming in the third quarter. Amir Tayor was the only other player to score in double-figures for the Rams with 10 points.
Newton held the Grayson backcourt of CJ Hyland and Anthony Alston to eight points.
“We really had to defend our home turf and get ‘us’ back,” Gibbons said. “I thought we did a good job of doing that tonight. I was really proud of the effort because we held a really good team to 43 points.”
Newton and Grayson are tied atop Region 4 at 4-1 and will meet again on Feb. 10 in what will be the final regular season game of the season.
Grayson will be back in action Friday night on the road at Brookwood while Newton will travel to face South Gwinnett.
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