Croone leads Rams to season-opening win

— Newton’s Stephen Croone was one of the smallest players on the court in Tuesday’s season opener against Walnut Grove. But two minutes into the fourth quarter, it didn’t matter much. The 6’0 guard’s emphatic dunk with 6:05 to play allowed the hosts to put some distance between themselves and the visiting Warriors in a 55-46 victory. Croone, who recently turned down a scholarship offer to Alabama State, later dunked again on a breakaway and joined Shane Henry and Rashard Cabane as each scored 13 points to overcome Newton’s difficult shooting night.

Newton led 37-28 before Croone drove and dunked on two defenders, and though Walnut Grove got the deficit back down to nine points on two occasions, three of four free throws and a field goal by Cabane helped the Rams go up 46-32 with four minutes left.

The two-time defending Region 2-AAAAA champion Rams closed the first half on a 14-5 run, with five of the points coming from Henry as the hosts went into the locker room up 27-16. Henry, an uncommitted 6’5 senior, was recently offered a scholarship by Young Harris College.

For Walnut Grove, which came into the night 2-0 and coming off a 91-28 win over Social Circle, Nick Peters led the way with 23 points, 14 coming in the fourth quarter.

The Newton girls never trailed in the first game of the night and defeated Walnut Grove, 49-33. The Rams, who led by as many as 24 points, used a suffocating defense that forced 30 turnovers and balanced scoring-four players had at least six points led by Mikola Burks’ 10 points-to hand the Warriors their first loss after a 2-0 start.

The teams were tied at 4-4 early on before Newton quickly took control. Starting with Burks’ steal and lay up, the Rams went on a 9-0 run that extended in the second period and gave the hosts a 13-4 lead. The defense forced 16 first-half turnovers, two of which came on a steal and field goal on consecutive possessions by Precious Price and Jasmine LaGuins late in the first half to make it a 25-12 game.

Price added eight points and three assists, while Emili Russ added seven point and seven rebounds. Walnut Grove guard Morgan Demilio led all scorers with 13 points.