LOGANVILLE — The ally-oops drew the ahhhs in Grayson's crowded gym Tuesday, but those high-flying antics stemmed from tenacious defense.
The top-ranked Rams learned from their hubris earlier in the season and demolished Newton, the only team to beat them this year, in a 86-39 landslide in Loganville.
“That's a good team,” Grayson head coach Geoffrey Pierce said of Newton. “They've got several guys who are going to play at the next level so you come in thinking you can just show up and not play defense, they're going to clip you. That's what happened to us (in an 84-80 December defeat).
“You don't like losing, but it was good for them to see what can happen if you're not on your stuff defensively every night.”
Senior Toneari Lane established himself early, dropping 12 points on Newton in the first quarter en route to a game-high 21. He also had four steals.
He drilled back-to-back 3-pointers from the corner to push Grayson's lead past 20 with nearly two minutes still left in the opening quarter.
The Rams (17-1, 5-1) ran a deliberate offense and hounded Newton (13-6, 3-3) on the defensive end to dominate the boards.
Their lead was 26-4 at the end of the first quarter and 48-14 at the half.
Caleb Murphy and Deivon Smith set each other up for dunk after dunk as Grayson distanced itself. The seniors combined for 13 assists. Murphy, who is headed to South Florida in the fall, finished with 16 points. Smith was one of three Rams with 13, joined by juniors Ian Schieffelin and Quinones Corpman.
The last three plays made by the starters were the game in a microcosm. Murphy and Smith traded off lofting perfect feeds to the rim for definitive dunks in transition before Lane closed the third quarter with a steal and slam.
The subs came in for the entire fourth quarter, getting valuable playing time with the Rams up by 52.
“You're not going to find too many teams with championship aspirations that don't play defense,” Pierce said. “We weren't very good defensively early in the year and I think we've gotten better each game since November.
“We want to win region so we can have home-court advantage in state. This game was all about seeding heading into the region tournament. They beat us back in December so getting a split with them is huge in regard to the standings.”
Newton had just one player in double figures, Jakai Newton with 10.
Grayson 65, Newton 54
Victoria Dames hit a pair of smooth 3-pointers as part of a third-quarter surge and was one of four players in double figures as Grayson defeated Newton 65-54 in a key Region 8-AAAAAAA clash Tuesday.
Dames finished with 20 points. Malia Grace and Catherine Alben each had 14 points, while Nyelle Lee added 12.
The Rams (12-9, 5-1) led 30-20 at the half and Newton was able to trim that down to single digits. Dames went to work in the third, sparking a run that pushed Grayson's lead to 42-26 and caused Newton (11-8, 3-3) to call a timeout.
Newton cut the gap to nine points with 2:07 to go, but Grayson bled the clock and hit its free throws to secure the win. Ashley Norris scored a game-high 22 points for Newton and Ashanti Wright finished with 12.