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Newton boys beat rivals on the court

COVINGTON - The Newton boys team was firing on all cylinders Saturday night as they defeated cross-town rival Eastside 66-37, while the Newton girls held off a late charge to beat the Lady Eagles 41-38.

In the girls game, both teams started out sluggish. The two teams were tied 7-7 at the end of the first quarter as both teams struggled to make shots.

Eastside hit only one field goal in the first half as the Eagles scored 12 points and were down 17-12 at halftime.

"The effort was there, but we weren't executing," Eastside coach Jason Grooms said. "We missed a lot of shots that we're capable of making and left a lot of points out there on the table."

Eastside started the second half by hitting two quick buckets, one on a steal off an inbound pass.

But Newton answered right back. Led by the steady play of freshman guard Qaiserah Shariff, the Lady Rams kept Eastside at arms length throughout the third quarter.

Newton opened the fourth quarter in a full-court press and forced Eastside into two straight turnovers.

The Lady Eagles regrouped and were able to break the pressure. With less than four minutes remaining in the game, Eastside's Raven Williams hit a clutch bucket to get the Lady Eagles to within two.

Ashley Burtts hit two free-throws as Eastside tied the game at 34-34 with 3:08 to play and the crowd started to get into the game.

But Shariff hit a bucket for Newton to put the Lady Rams back up two.

After Williams went down with an apparent knee injury, Eastside came out of the 15-minute delay down 39-36 with 1:21 left in the game.

Anthonia Mullins hit a layup for Eastside to cut the lead to one, but Shariff hit two key free-throws to extend the Newton lead back to three at 41-38.

Eastside gave it one more shot but a last-second, desperation heave bounced off the front of the rim and the Lady Rams held on for the win.

"It's always intense and nervous around here when it's a county rivalry game," Newton coach Tiffani Johnson said. "We had the intensity to win the game. We made a couple of mistakes, but we were able to tough it out and pull it out at the end."

Shariff led the way for Newton with 15 points, followed by Shay Marks (9) and Choconna Marks (8). Burtts led the way for Eastside with 12 points, followed by Jade Cook (10) and Mullins (7).

In the nightcap, both boys teams looked to rebound from tough losses on Friday night and while both may have been tired, Newton came out red hot to start the game.

Newton's Jamon Hawkins hit his first four shots, including three 3-pointers to spark a 16-4 run to open the contest. Newton scored on its first six trips down the floor as Sean Monk hit his first two shots as well.

"I thought the kids gave a good effort but they (Newton) shot well," Eastside coach Michael Gerald said. "I told them to play as hard as they can. We played last night and these kids were tired and I'm not blaming that on the outcome of the game, but it's tough when you ask kids to play like that."

Toward the end of the first period, Hawkins showed his all-around skill when he dished a nice pass to Montell Grimes under the basket who went up hard for a two-handed jam that brought the crowd to its feet. Grimes' bucket gave the Rams an 18-7 lead at the end of the first period.

A determined Eastside team came out in the second period looking to slow down the Rams' offense.

The two teams traded 3-pointers to start the quarter. But midway through the period, Rams guard Kentrarius Farley was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer. Farley's 4-point play pushed Newton's lead to 30-14.

Newton hit back-to-back 3-pointers to close out the half and led 41-18 at the break.

"It seems like when you're at your home, in your own gym and you're used to it, you feel good," Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said. "Jamon Hawkins hit three threes to start the game and that really set the tone."

Newton's 3-point barrage wasn't over. Monk came out firing to start the second half as he scored eight quick points, including two 3-pointers.

Eastside forward Artis Clanton started to get things going for the Eagles as he hit his first two shots in the second half.

The Eagles fought hard throughout the period, but the Rams extended their lead to 59-29 at the end of the third quarter, forcing the officials to begin the fourth period with six minutes on the clock.

With the game all but decided, both teams went to the bench with less than two minutes left.

Even though the game was meaningless to both schools as far as regional play goes, Rasmussen still felt it was an important win.

"It's a very important game," he said. "They're fun games. You get a big crowd and a lot of people care about it. You feel like you're playing for the Newton County championship."

Gerald, on the other hand, downplayed the rivalry between the two schools.

"The county (Newton) wants to see it, but it's more of a distraction than anything," he said. "We're trying to win a region. When we were in the same region, it meant more. We want to win every game, but we don't put any more emphasis on this one."

Hawkins led all scorers with 18 points, including four 3-pointers. Monk finished with 16 points, followed by Farley (12) and Omar Crawley (9). Clanton led Eastside with 15 points and five rebounds.