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COVINGTON, GEORGIA – Grayson and Newton’s rivalry on the basketball court has been one of the state’s best-kept secrets over the last several years.

After Friday night, it won’t be anymore.

In a game that saw Grayson come out victorious over Newton 62-49 to claim its second straight Region 4-AAAAAAA championship on the Rams’ home court, what ensued in the moments after left the two powerhouse programs at odds.

The two coaching staffs had to be restrained following Grayson’s on-court celebration that featured them walking over to what was left of the Newton student section and clapping their hands.

Anthony Alson

To the delight of his teammates on the bench, Grayson junior Anthony Alston deposits a two-handed slam during his team's 62-49 win over Newton in the Georgia Region 4-AAAAAAA championship game.

The gesture didn’t sit kindly with the Newton administration and after a brief scuffle, things ended with Grayson being escorted back to their locker room without being awarded their region championship trophy.

After voicing his displeasure for several minutes outside of the Grayson locker room, head coach Geoffrey Pierce was finally given the trophy and it was quickly passed off to the players in the locker room who were eagerly awaiting to continue their celebration.

Not only is it the second season in a row that No. 2 Grayson has taken down No. 5 Newton on the road to win the region championship, but it’s also the program’s fifth title in a row.

Pierce said after the game that it’s becoming the norm to win big games on the road.

“We’ve had a lot of success with this program, but it was built on going on the road in the postseason and winning games,” Pierce said. “Just seizing the opportunity. They earned the No. 1 seed.”

The only lead Newton had in Friday night’s game lasted all but 15 seconds.

Grayson shot lights out in the first quarter and knocked down six of their first seven before ending the quarter shooting 7 of 11 (64 percent). That was good enough to give Grayson a slim 18-15 lead heading into the second quarter.

Grayson’s Gicarri Harris scored seven of his 14 points in the first quarter.

Gicarri Harris - Marcus Whitlock

Grayson's Gicarri Harris (24) scored half of his 14 points in the opening quarter to help the Rams build an early lead. Here he drives past Newton's Marcus Whitlock.

With the game just starting to heat up, disaster struck for Netwon just three possessions into the second quarter.

After going up for a shot attempt, Castle was accidentally struck in the face by Grayson’s Anthony Alston. The swipe to the face caused a gash and forced the McDonalds All-American to miss the final 6:50 of the second quarter.

Without their leading scorer, Newton struggled on offense. But fortunately for the home team, so did Grayson. The two teams managed just eight points apiece in the quarter and Grayson took a slim 26-23 lead into halftime.

Castle remained out for the start of the third quarter and that doomed the Newton offense.

It sparked a 13-0 run by Grayson in the first five minutes of the third quarter. Harris and Alston combined to score 11 of the 13 points during that run and it gave the Rams a 42-26 lead.

By the time Castle re-entered the game with three minutes remaining in the third quarter, Newton found itself trailing by 14 points.

Alston, who finished his night with a game-high 16 points, drilled three long balls in the third quarter for Grayson. After struggling on offense in the second quarter, Pierce said it was good to see them make adjustments in the third.

“We were just trying to play inside out,” Pierce said. “Whether the paint sets to a big or just driving and kicking. Anthony hit several big shots. The kids did a good job adjusting at halftime. They’ve done a good job of that all year. Just being coachable.”

McDonald's All-American Stephon Castle was accidentally struck in the face, opening up a gash that caused the Newton star to miss much of second and third quarters. During that stretch visiting Grayson built a 13-point lead that vaulted it to a regional championship victory.

McDonald's All-American Stephon Castle was accidentally struck in the face, opening up a gash that caused the Newton star to miss much of second and third quarters. During that stretch visiting Grayson built a 13-point lead that vaulted it to a regional championship victory.

With Castle back in the game, it gave the Rams new life. The UConn signee scored the next four points, but Grayson quickly ended that run and entered the fourth quarter with a 15-point lead.

With one last run left in them, Newton opened the fourth quarter on a 10-0 run and trimmed Grayson’s lead to five points with 5:33 left.

Looking to stop the bleeding, Grayson got a huge bucket from freshman Kayden Allen and from there, the Rams were able to regroup.

“Castle is one of the best players that I’ve coached against in my career,” Pierce said. “McDonald's All-American. He earned that. We knew that they were going to make a run. They have a lot of pride. It was just about the next play and what we were going to do to stop the run.”

Allen’s basket started a 6-0 run by Grayson and that gave them some much-needed breathing room. An Amir Taylor Layup extended their lead back out to double-digits, 55-44 with 3:18 left and with the game starting to get away from Newton, Grayson added insult to injury.

Alston buried his fourth three-pointer of the night to extend their lead to 12 and then threw down a dunk in the closing seconds to put the game on ice. Alston finished his night with 16 points while Harris scored 14 and grabbed 10 rebounds while dishing out six assists.

CJ Hyland scored 11 points and dished out five assists while Chad Moodie scored eight, grabbed six rebounds and blocked four shots.

The win gives Grayson its fifth consecutive region championship.

“I thought in the second half we did a better job keeping Newton off of the offensive glass and not turning the ball over so much,” Pierce said. “Once we cleaned up the turnovers, I was very pleased with the effort. I thought we played hard the whole game, so it’s good to get a win like that on the road heading into the state tournament.”

For Newton, Castle finished his night with 15 points after playing just under 20 minutes.

With the win, Grayson secures a No. 1 seed in the upcoming Class AAAAAAA state tournament and will host Marietta in the first round. Newton will host Harrison in the first round after settling for the No. 2 seed. 

Gicarri Harris
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Anthony Alston
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Kayden Allen
Chad Moodie
Jakai Newton
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Gicarri Harris
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Stephon Castle