COVINGTON -- Experience is one thing the Lady Rams are not going to have as they return one starting player from last year's team that made it to the playoffs. However, a new and not-as strong region may give Newton an opportunity to fine tune its team, giving it a chance to make it to the next level.
"I don't think it'll be tougher. Last year was one of the toughest regions in the state with Stephenson and Westlake. This region just doesn't have the history, but that doesn't mean they're any less competitive," Newton head coach Tiffani Johnson said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to step in and start our own tradition."
Even though Johnson acknowledges that Alcovy, which made it to the Final Four last year and only lost one player, is going to be hard to beat for the Region 2-AAAAAA championship, there are other teams that have a chance to make some noise. Aside from Newton, Lovejoy and Luella also made it to the playoffs last season while Rockdale had a winning season, going 20-6.
"Our goal is to come out every game and leave everything on the floor. At the end of the day, if it's a win or loss, as long as we tried to execute to the best of our, that's our main goal," Johnson said. "I anticipate Alcovy: They are real strong and made it to the Final Four last year. The rest of those players are hungry, excited and ready to go. They're going to be tough this year."
Junior Precious Price is the only player returning from last year's team. While Johnson would like to win all Newton's games, that's not the most important goal the Rams are going after. She knows it is going to take time for the other players to develop and for Price to step up and accept her role as the team leader.
"Mentally, she has to get stronger. Physically, her ability is great and she's a great athlete. There's a lot of potential, she just has to put it into action," Johnson said. "We're looking for Precious to be more of a leader on the floor. She's going to have to play a lot harder since teams are going to focus on her. The other players are going to have to step up and find their role. It's going to take us a while with such a young team."
Even though Price is the only starter, that doesn't mean that no one else has varsity experience. Others from the team from last season include Micah Sneed, the only returning senior, Sonia Forney and Tori Pharr.
"We're looking for a lot of players to step up. The players that are stepping up now didn't get a lot of playing time last year so this will be real new to them," Johnson said.
"She (Pharr) probably had the most playing time other than Precious. We went from having a bench full of post players to having Tori. She's going to be our inside presence so we're looking for her to step up."