Hoop hounds

2007-08 Rams pre­pare for sea­son on the hard­wood

The Covington News - - SPORTS - By Bill Dolan

The New­ton High School boys bas­ket­ball pro­gram has es­tab­lished a win­ning tra­di­tion through­out the years.

Even though this year’s squad only re­turns one starter — se­nior Sean Monk — head coach Rick Ras­mussen is op­ti­mistic head­ing into the sea­son.

“We are re­ally ea­ger to get started,” said Ras­mussen. “We had a great off-sea­son and the kids have re­ally worked hard to­gether.”

His squad posted a per­fect 10-0 record dur­ing sum­mer camp at Ge­or­gia Col­lege, win­ning the camp cham­pi­onship for the sec­ond year in a row.

“Out­side of our re­gion we need to do well be­cause you’ve got to build some mo­men­tum,” said Ras­mussen. “There’s no game on our sched­ule that’s guar­an­teed. We’ve just got to take it one game at a time and do the best we can.”

Last Thurs­day, the Rams trav­eled to Mon­roe Area for their open­ing ex­hi­bi­tion game, where they throt­tled the Pur­ple Hur­ri­canes by a fi­nal score of 65-34. It was a bal­anced team ef­fort as four Rams hit dou­ble fig­ures and ev­ery­one on the bench was able to gain some valu­able play­ing time. In fact, the first half score was an amaz­ing 34-5.

“Our de­fense was amaz­ing and we shot the ball re­ally well,” re­called Ras­mussen. “It’s not of­ten that you can hold a team to sin­gle dig­its for a full 16 min­utes of play.”

Be­sides Monk, other re­turnees for the Rams in­clude the high-fly­ing Mon­trell “Hops” Grimes, sharp­shooter Ja­mon

ebrating John­son’s suc­cess, even though it spoiled what should have been a ca­reer year for the four-time se­ries cham­pion.

In ad­di­tion to pass­ing Dale Earn­hardt on NASCAR’s ca­reer vic­to­ries list this sea­son, Gor­don found off-track hap­pi­ness with the June birth of his daugh­ter. It gave him a bal­ance he had been miss­ing dur­ing the hey­day of his ca­reer.

“When you go through be­com­ing a first-time fa­ther, there is noth­ing that’s go­ing to top that. It is the ul­ti­mate,” Gor­don said. “I’ve won cham­pi­onships be­fore ... (and) I know that even that can’t top be­com­ing a dad and that whole ex­pe­ri­ence.”

While Ju­nior, Jeff and Jim­mie cer­tainly dom­i­nated the head­lines, they hardly stole the show:

• The sea­son opened with a cheat­ing scan­dal at the Day­tona 500 — five teams were caught with un­ap­proved mod­i­fi­ca­tions on their cars — in­clud­ing Michael Wal­trip, who had an il­le­gal sub­stance in his en­gine. It set the tone for a strict NASCAR crack­down on cheat­ing, and the sanc­tion­ing body showed lit­tle mercy when it came to its Car of To­mor­row.

NASCAR phased in its CoT this sea­son, and it’s un­clear if the car will in­deed re­duce costs, fos­ter bet­ter rac­ing and im­prove safety. The only thing that’s cer­tain is that NASCAR won’t tol­er­ate mod­i­fi­ca­tions to it, as many crew chiefs learned this sea­son through lengthy sus­pen­sions and stiff fines.

• Wal­trip never re­cov­ered from the Day­tona scan­dal, and it started a long and trou­bling year for Toy­ota in its first sea­son in NASCAR’s top se­ries. The two-time Day­tona 500 win­ner strug­gled to make races — he qual­i­fied for just 14 of 36 — and the other Camry pi­lots strug­gled, too.

Of the seven full-time teams, Dave Blaney’s 31st-place fin­ish was the high­est. But the Ja­panese au­tomaker should crack the win­ner’s cir­cle next sea­son with the ad­di­tion of Joe Gibbs Rac­ing and driv­ers Tony Ste­wart, Kyle Busch and Denny Ham­lin.

• Busch, de­spite tremen­dous tal­ent and a long fu­ture ahead of him, found him­self out of a job at Hendrick Mo­tor­sports when Ju­nior be­came avail­able. Al­most ev­ery team in the garage wanted the tem­per­a­men­tal 22-year-old, and he picked Gibbs, where the driver stable can be a bit emo­tion­ally un­sta­ble.

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

In the zone:

New­ton boys bas­ket­ball head coach Rick Ras­mussen is primed and ready for the 2007-08 sea­son.

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