Prep Notes: ECHS's Paula Jones, Northgate's Cain begin final seasons
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN and DOUG GORMAN
Two of Coweta County’s veteran high school basketball coaches will hang up their whistles at the end of the 2012-13 season.
East Coweta girls’ coach Paula Jones and Northgate boys' coach Mack Cain have both announced their intentions to retire at the end of the 2012-13 season.
“I have been doing this for a long time and this is something I have been thinking about for a while," Jones said.
Jones, who has won more than 500 games, has led her team to the state tournament seven times, including to the quarterfinals in 2003 and 2004.
Before arriving at Northgate, Cain had plenty of success as the coach at Jonesboro High School leading the Cardinals to the Class AAAAA state semifinals in 2002 and the finals in 2003 where they lost to Wheeler.
Those Jonesboro teams included current Atlanta Falcon wide receiver Harry Douglas and his younger brother and current Houston Rocket point guard Toney Douglas.
East Coweta’s girls team last made the state tournament in 2009 before falling to Beach.
Jones swan song has gotten off to a slow start with the Lady Indians trying to play its way through injuries.
The Lady Indians begin the season trying to replace last year’s 2011-12 Newnan Times-Herald Player of the Year Zanna Zachary, who finished with seven points, two rebounds and three assists per game.
Zachary was the only senior on last year’s roster.
Four seniors return to the Lady Indians this season, including forward Ciarra Davison, who joined Zachary on the first team after finishing with seven points per game. Davison converted 75 percent of her free throws.
However, senior point guard Jasmine Williams has been sidelined with knee injury.
“We are hoping we will get her back, but we just aren’t really sure yet,” Jones said.
Williams made a significant contribution last year with her ability to distribute the basketball.
Bre Tiggs and Lexy Zelczak return for their senior years.
With Williams not expected to play anytime soon, the veteran coach has had to turn to freshman Eboni Williams and Ayanna Reid to fill the point guard spot.
“They have plenty of potential, but they are young and there’s a big difference between high school ball and middle school ball.”
Cain’s final season centers around a rebuilding year for the team that is trying to replace 12 seniors.
Last Friday, the Vikings got 21 points from Torres Johnson in the team’s 54-42 loss to Mundy’s Mill.
• East Coweta readies for LaGrange
The East Coweta boys entered the 2012-13 season with plenty of depth that includes nine seniors.
Point guard David Swanson, Shania Knight, O’Darius Kendall, Derek Oliver, and Brandon Martin are among the seniors who had playing time last year for the Indians who went 8-17 last year.
Friday night, East Coweta plays at home against LaGrange. It is the second meeting between the two schools. LaGrange swept both the boys and girls teams earlier this year on the road.
Both East Coweta teams will get a solid test right after the holidays when it plays in Brookwood High School’s Deep South Classic.
“That tournament should really help us grow up,” Jones said.
East Coweta moves into Region 3-AAAAA this year. The six-team region also features Newnan, Langston Hughes, Tri-Cities, Douglas County and state power Westlake. Each team in the region will play twice in a home-and-home matchup.
The Indians play at Newnan on January 11 and again at home on February 8 to round out the schedule.
• Injuries hurt Lady Vikings
Reeling from a string of injuries and unrelated absences, Northgate’s girls battled to pull out a 30-22 victory over Ola at home in a Region 4-AAAAA game on Tuesday.
The Lady Vikings (3-4, 1-2 in 4-AAAAA) were coming off a season-low eight point effort against Pike County on Saturday while continuing to play without their top two scorers from last year.
Sophomore shooting guard Katie Mitchell (hand) won’t return until the first week of January at the earliest according to Northgate head coach Matt Trucks. Meanwhile junior Lyric Underwood, an All-County selection last year after averaging 18 points a game, will miss the rest of the season according to Trucks.
The two players accounted for 31 points on average per game last season, with the losses a huge hit to the Lady Vikings scoring.
Over its past five games since losing Mitchell, Northgate has averaged just 25 points per game while going 1-4 following a 2-0 start with both players in the lineup.
“We’ve been playing good against the press. Last year we didn’t break the press very well,” said Trucks, who has been pleased with the ball movement from guards Ebonee Echols, Alexis Huling and Quianna LeBlanc. “Right now, we’re just having trouble scoring points.”
Junior Rose Barrera has been thrust into Mitchell’s starting role after giving solid minutes off the bench last year. Junior Amber Radda is Northgate’s only true post player following the loss of Underwood.
Radda hit two, closing free throws against Ola in the final two minutes and Echols and Barrera joined LeBlanc in helping control the clock from there to keep Ola at bay in the final 45 seconds.
Heading into Friday’s trip to Union Grove, Northgate also has both senior Taylor Kidner and sophomore Alexis Sutton back nearly a week after having just six healthy players for its game against Pike County.
• Newnan set to face Sandy Creek
Graduation hit Newnan’s girls program hard in the offseason through the loss of nine seniors from last year’s lineup including All-County players Durnecia Hill, Katia Roberts and Kierra Clark.
The trio combined to average 28 points a game last year during a 9-17 season.
On Tuesday at LaGrange, Newnan lost two players to injuries including one to junior Chayce Goggins when her head hit the court hard. It’s unknown whether the Lady Cougars will have the guard for tonight’s home game at Sandy Creek.
A busy week that has Newnan playing its first five games over the span of a week continues with a makeup with Harris County on Friday and another home game on Saturday with Fayette County in a mid-afternoon tipoff.
The good news is that Newnan continues to possess the county’s most dominating post presence in senior center Tiara Calloway, who gave LaGrange problems in Tuesday’s 64-41 loss on the road.
“We want to feed her the ball as much as possible,” said Lady Cougars head coach Lavarette Pearson. “We’ve just had a tough time getting it to her so far.”
Calloway’s efforts have already included a 16-point effort during an 0-2 start that began with Saturday’s loss at Chapel Hill.
LaGrange, which improved to 3-0 after defeating East Coweta 64-46 a week earlier, took advantage of what Pearson called “a bad third quarter,” while pulling away after halftime.
Newnan’s boys, meanwhile, dropped its first game of the season 55-50 after opening the year with a 63-50 win over Chapel Hill.
The Cougars return five players of last season’s lineup including 6-foot-8 center Immanuel Griggs, last year’s Times-Herald Player of the Year. Also back is standout guard Donnell Dean. Together the duo combined for 22 points a game with Griggs also pulling down 11 rebounds and adding four blocks on average.
Guards Kaceon Person, Darrell Morrow and Diamond Jones also return, with Newnan turning to newcomers like juniors Anfernee Turner and Tonaris Portress to fill a role up front filled last year by football teammate Tray Matthews.
Matthews will graduate early to enroll at the University of Georgia in January.
New faces include 6-foot-6 freshman center Jannson Williams, 6-2 sophomore forward Tae Parks, 6-1 junior guard Chris White and senior guard James Alexander.