Prep Basketball: East Coweta foiled by Westlake girls

Westlake High’s respective basketball lineups showcased plenty of talent on Tuesday during a Region 3-AAAAAA sweep of East Coweta at John Thrower Gym.
But the roads to victory were far from identical.
While the No. 10 state-ranked Lions rolled to a 75-44 road win behind 50 points from their starting five and plenty of help in reserve over East Coweta’s boys, the Lady Indians gave Westlake’s girls all they could handle from the opening tip in an 18-point loss that was a much tighter game from the looks of the final score.
Head coach Paula Jones’ girls lineup scored the first 10 points of Tuesday’s game and kept a Lady Lions team made up entirely of underclassmen on the ropes for the majority of three quarters despite attempting just four free-throw attempts in the game.
But the Lady Indians were gobbled up by Westlake’s press late in a 58-40 loss where the visitors scored 18 of the last 19 points of their victory.
The Lady Lions, who improved to 14-7 overall and 4-3 in 3-AAAAAA, outscored East Coweta 16-1 in the final period after scratching back to overtake 42-39 lead after three quarters.
The win put further distance between third and fourth place in the region, as the Lady Indians fell to 2-5 in 3-AAAAAA and 3-16 overall.

East Coweta’s girls, who led by seven points late in the third quarter, also fell to 1-15 when unable to score more than 45 points. The team is 2-3 when able to break the 45-point plateau.

An offense that seemed to come alive for 17 points in the third — seven of which from senior Ciarra Davison — went cold while struggling to get the ball across the timeline.

East Coweta equally struggled to get hands on rebounds in the second half while unable to find an answer to 6-foot Westlake sophomore Anriel Howard, who scored 13 of her game-high 16 points in the final two quarters.

Howard connected on three field-goals in each period to help offset a final surge from the Lady Indians in the third period.

As frustrating as the loss was for East Coweta’s girls after jumping out to a 10-0 lead against one of the top-three teams in the region, Jones could see a bit of a silver lining heading into the final three region games of the regular season.

Should the Lady Indians win two of their final three games — with both Tri-Cities (0-6) and Newnan (2-4) left on the schedule — East Coweta will hold on to at least the No. 4 seed in the region tournament, also to be played at home in Thrower Gym.

“Two weeks ago, I’m not sure if we were capable of an effort like this,” Jones said. “We’re had games where we’ve had one good quarter or two good quarters. Tonight it was three. This is the best we’ve played so far. We’ve just got to learn not to panic so much. But I was pleased, especially considering the quality of the opponent.”

Playing near perfect in the opening quarter, the Lady Indians frustrated Westlake during a 10-0 run off the opening tip where East Coweta scored six points on offensive rebounds.

A starting lineup including freshman guards Ayanna Reid and Eboni Williams took advantage of Westlake’s shooting struggles in the first quarter. With the Lady Lions missing seven of its first nine field-goal attempts, both Lady Indians ninth graders scored four points apiece to lead the early charge.

Westlake freshman Marissa Cantrell, however, helped lead the initial Lady Lions comeback, which left East Coweta trailing 23-22 at halftime after swapping leads three times in the final two minutes of the first half. Cantrell scored six of her nine points in the second quarter.

Sophomores Tierra Boykin gave Westlake its first lead on the latter of two steals that led to layups. Lia Thomas, another sophomore, connected on a jumper to close out her six-point effort in the period.

Davison, who had been scoreless until then, helped East Coweta regain a six-point lead following her baseline jumper with 4:19 left in the quarter. Senior teammate Lexy Zelczak connected on consecutive attempts to push a 35-27 advantage and Quentina Roberts’ putback of Zelczak’s miss kept the lead at 37-30 late in the period.

But Brandi Sinkfield’s basket to regain a 39-38 advantage for the Lady Indians turned out to be East Coweta’s final field goal of the game. Howard polished off the peirod with a basket and then added another with 6:45 to play to put Westlake ahead 45-39. Minutes later, she added a layup off an offensive rebound to make it 51-39 and put the game out of reach.

The Lions’ starters outscored East Coweta’s 17-3 in the opening quarter while overpowering the Indians with an uptempo pace led by four dunks in the first period by 6-foot-6 sophomore Kejuan Johnson.

Johnson’s eight points helped give Westlake (18-4, 6-1) a comfortable 27-9 lead after one quarter.

The group then led an 18-4 charge out of halftime after leading the Indians (3-16, 0-7) by a 42-21 margin at the break. The Lions led 68-31 to force a six-minute fourth quarter.

Johnson’s 10 points all came on slams before heading to the bench with the same starting five with 3:34 left in the third quarter. Senior guard Anthony Bagtas had six points in both the first and third periods to account for his game-high 12 points. Junior guard Raymond Saunders added 11 and senior Marcus Mitchell added nine among 11 Westlake scorers.

East Coweta was led by O’Darius Kendall’s 10 points off the bench. Zhakeer Tervey also had six while David Swanson scored all five of his points in the fourth quarter.

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