Rams set high expectations for basketball season

COVINGTON — The new Region 2-AAAAAA is going to be loaded with talented teams as three of the seven teams made it to the playoffs and six of them finished with winning records.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun. We’re really looking forward to it. It’s going to make some of those local rivalry games more important than region games, so that will be an exciting element to it. We were playing Alcovy anyway, so now it’s a region game,” Newton head coach Rick Rasmussen said. “It’s one of the best regions in the state, definitely one of the best regions in AAAAAA.”

The other big rivalry game coming out of the region will be Rockdale, who along with Alcovy and Lovejoy made it to the playoffs last year. Finishing the season with winning records were Newton (19-7), Luella (17-9), Druid Hills (17-8), Rockdale (20-9), Lovejoy (24-6) and Alcovy (27-4). The only teams under .500 was Morrow, which ended the season with a 12-14 record.

“It’s going to be a war every game and last man standing,” Rasmussen said. “We’ve won two of the last three region championships, we won two in a row and last year we finished second in the regular season. We definitely want to get back to the state tournament. That’s goal No. 1. I think this team is capable of doing that and this region is going to be extremely difficult. We want to have a chance to compete for the region championship. We have to take them one game at a time.”

Besides having a tough region schedule, the Rams are also playing a tough non-region schedule against Dallas County (Ala.) in out-of-state Christmas tournament and a home-away series against Jenkins out of Savannah.

The Rams have set high goals considering that they only have two returning starters. Starting again for the Rams are junior Jalen Glover and senior Rashard Cabane. Returning players include Kishon Rogers (Sr.), Taylor Hawkins (Jr.), Jamir Davis (Sr.) and Albert Zachery (Sr.).

“We’ll have three new guys in the line-up and a lot of guys that stepped up from the JV last year. M.J. Boykin (Jr.) and D.J. Hill (So.) who was our ninth-grade team MVP last year,” Rasmussen said. “Our starting five is not locked in, probably three or four positions are. Rodarius Mitchell (Jr.) is very capable and he’s in the starting line up right now.”

Just like recent Newton teams, the one thing that this team is lacking is height with Glover, Cabane and Zachery standing tall at 6-foot-3. However, playing without a lot of height has not been a problem. Over the past four years, the Rams’ overall record is 95-21 with two region championships, two trips to the Elite-Eight while advancing once to the Final-Four.

“We’re giant killers, we like to play big people. We don’t have any trouble matching up against big people and we like the challenge of playing teams with height,” Rasmussen said. “We have some guys that can come inside and bang some people. This summer we rotated nine players. With this rotation and group we might play more people than we have. It’s hard to say for sure.”

Newton begins their season on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. against Stone Mountain in the North Georgia Invitational at Madison County.