SNELLVILLE -- Newton gave Grayson a scare early on thanks to a 22-11 run to start the second quarter that trimmed the Rams’ lead to one point, but it didn’t last for long.
Holding a six-point lead at the break, Grayson went on to dominate the second half and out-scored Newton by 18 points to advance to Saturday’s Region 8-AAAAAAA finals against Shiloh with an 82-58 win.
Senior Toneari Lane led Grayson in scoring with 22 points while Caleb Murphy and Ian Schieffelin each scored 14. Deivon Smith managed only nine points, but grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds and dished out seven assists in the win.
Grayson head coach Geoffrey Pierce said he was much more pleased with his team’s execution in the second half.
“One of the things that we challenged them early with was letting the bigs touch it early because we definitely had a size advantage,” Pierce said. “We have a couple bigs that can really play, so they did a better job there in the second half.”
The Rams used their size to their advantage in the second half and wore Newton down. Every Newton run was thwarted by Grayson and the Rams ended the third quarter out-scoring Newton 23-15.
Grayson connected on four three-pointers in the third quarter and six more points were scored on offensive putbacks by Schieffelin.
Heading into the fourth leading Newton by 14 points, Grayson continued to score at will. Junior Quinones Corpman buried his second three-pointer early in the fourth to extend Grayson’s lead to 66-51.
Newton standout Caleb Byrd did his best to keep Newton in the game. The senior scored a game-high 28 points and led the charge in their second-quarter comeback after trailing Grayson 24-12 at the end of one.
Newton shot an efficient 43 percent from the field in the third quarter, but were unable to keep up with the ultra-efficient shooting from Grayson. The No. 1 ranked Rams shot 56 percent from the field in the third and started the fourth 4 of 5 from the field to build their insurmountable lead.
“(Grayson) is big and they wear you down on the glass,” Newton head coach Charlemagne Gibbons said after the game. “We didn’t shoot the ball well tonight. Caleb made some shots, but the first time we beat them, we had 3-4 guys shoot the ball well. Max Calloway came in and made some shots, but collectively as a team, we missed a lot of shots and didn’t get to the free throw line enough.”
Byrd was the only Ram to score in double-figures for Newton. Byrd also reached the 2,000-point mark for his career in the game. He entered just 16 points shy of the feat. Calloway was the next closest with eight while Shawn Smith and Stephon Castle each scored five in the loss.
Newton will face Archer in Saturday’s third-place game.
As for Grayson, Pierce said his team will be ready for a much-anticipated third meeting against Shiloh in the finals. The Rams defeated the Generals in both regular-season meetings.
“I think they will be ready,” Pierce said of his team. “They’ve been playing in big games their whole lives, so I’m looking forward to the game tomorrow. It’s going to be a crazy atmosphere. It will be fun.”