Head coach: Charlemagne Gibbons
Region: 8-AAAAAAA, No. 3 seed
First-round opponent: at Collins Hill, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: Competing in the toughest region in Class AAAAAAA, the Rams were more than rewarded with a No. 3 seed after defeating fifth-ranked Archer in the region tournament third-place game Monday night.
As a result, the Rams will avoid white-hot North Gwinnett in the first round of the playoffs - winners of five in a row - and will instead travel to face Collins Hill, an Eagles team on the receiving end an 86-55 beatdown to the Bulldogs in their region title game.
Newton will enter Thursday’s first-round matchup against the Eagles playing some of its best basketball of the season following an up-and-down month of January where the Rams went 4-5.
Senior guard Caleb Byrd pieced together a strong region tournament, averaging 26.3 points-per-game and was dominant in the Rams’ 61-58 win over Archer after scoring 25 points on 10 of 14 shooting from the field.
Lacking size this season, it appears on paper that the Rams will match up well against Collins Hill, who does not feature a player standing over 6-foot-3 on their roster.
Collins Hill is led by senior Jabiri Smith, sophomore Vino Glover, junior Jabre Mills, sophomore Travis Hunter and senior Donovan Morris. Smith scored 17 points to lead the Eagles in their 31-point loss to North Gwinnett.
Head coach: Tiffani Johnson
Region: 8-AAAAAAA, No. 4 seed
First-round opponent: at Collins Hill, Thursday, 6 p.m.
Outlook: Newton head coach Tiffani Johnson and Grayson head coach Robin Potter were well aware at what was at stake Monday afternoon when their two teams met in the Region 8-AAAAAAA third-place game at Shiloh.
A win would set up a first-round playoff matchup against Peachtree Ridge (16-10) while the loser would go on to face undefeated and No. 2 ranked Collins Hill (27-0).
Unfortunately for Newton, the Rams lost their battle with Grayson and will gear up for a showdown with the Eagles Thursday night looking to do what no other team has done this season - hand Collins Hill a loss.
Newton will have the tall task of slowing down Collins Hill junior forward Sacha Washington, who stands at 6-foot-2 and dominated the Eagles’ region title game against Peachtree Ridge. Washington posted a double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing 12 rebounds to pair with four blocked shots and four steals.
The balanced offensive-minded Eagles will also feature a backcourt of 5-foot-10 senior guard Asjah Inniss and 5-foot-9 junior guard Eden Sample, both of whom scored in double figures in the Eagles’ win over Peachtree Ridge.
The Eagles are averaging 70.1 points-per-game on offense and are allowing just 33.7 on defense.
The Rams will be looking for big games from standout sophomore guard Ashleigh Norris, senior guard Tijunna Freeman and senior 6-foot wing Ashanti Wright.
Wright led the Rams in scoring during the region tournament, averaging 11.7 points-per-game. Norris averaged 10 while Freeman averaged nine.