East Coweta, Newnan renew basketball rivalry


Both East Coweta’s girls, led by longtime head coach Paula Jones, and Newnan’s, led by head coach Lavarett Pearson, would like to get respective teams back in the thick of the Region 3-AAAAAA race with wins tonight.

It’s an old sports cliche, but whenever Newnan and East Coweta get together in any sport you can throw out the records.
So tonight when respective basketball teams meet at Newnan's Max Bass Athletic Complex, it probably doesn’t matter that three of four lineups enter with losing records.
The Newnan boys are the lone lineup above .500, with a 9-5 overall record and a 0-1 mark in region play. But the team has also struggled of late, losing three of four games including Tuesday’s 59-50 decision at Tri-Cities in its Region 3-AAAAAA opener.
The Cougars’ free-throw shooting against Tri-Cities may have been the difference in the game according to head coach Rod Ladd.
“We have been hurting ourselves at the free throw line, so we are going to do a better job there,” Ladd said. “All we can really do is work on it, and we have been doing that.”
Newnan has four seniors on the its roster including starting point guard Kaceon Person. Darrell Morrow has proven to be capable of clutch shots from the outside while James Alexander has been productive off the bench.
The Cougars’ best offensive production, however, has come from juniors Doniel Dean and Immanuel Griggs. Dean, an explosive 6-0 guard has shown the ability to score anywhere on the floor as one of the team’s most consistent performers, according to Ladd.

The 6-8 Griggs has also proven to be able to take over a game for the Cougars inside the paint, especially while not having to do all the dirty work down low. Junior forward Tonaris Portress has been a huge addition up front, with the hard-hitting Newnan linebacker filling a role left by departing senior Tray Matthews, as a much physical presence in both sports.

Griggs’ abilities are not lost on East Coweta boys head coach Ronnie Vandiver.

“We have to find away to stop him,” Vandiver said. “Otherwise it might just turn into a dunk fest.”

The Indians’ biggest challenge might be trying to find an identity following a 3-10 start that has includes losses in the team’s first two region games. Tonight’s boys winner gets a chance to right itself in the standings.

Although Vandiver has the ability to substitute deep into his bench, East Coweta is still looking for that one leader to step up much like former standout and current Texas Southern sophomore Madarious Gibbs did two years ago for the program.

“We have had our moments, but nobody who has really stepped up and taken over a game,” Vandiver said. “We have plenty of experience, but nobody who has really had to taken on the role of leader, because there was always somebody else to do it.”

East Coweta was hoping it was on the right track after last Friday night’s victory over Sandy Creek, one led by Jeremy Farmer’s three 3-point shots in the second half, including two in the final period.

However, its offense struggled Tuesday against region foe Langston Hughes, dropping a 53-36 decision to the Panthers.

Despite its slow start, the Indians biggest offensive weapon this year has been its outside shooting. In its last two games, East Coweta’s boys have hit a combined 12 3-pointers, including four in Tuesday’s loss.

Farmer opened the contest with a trey, and Shania Knight and Rodney Craig each had one in the third quarter. Sanoj Allen buried a 3-point jumper in the final period for the Indians but it was just one of two field goals over the final eight minutes.

Last year Newnan and East Coweta’s boys split their two meetings with the Indians winning the first meeting of the two teams 62-58 and the Cougars taking the second contest 71-53.

Girls teams will also use tonight’s contest to try and jumpstart respective seasons.

Both have struggled to find wins. The Lady Indians come into the contest with a 2-11 overall record and a 1-1 mark in Region 3-AAAAAA play. Newnan comes into the game with a 1-9 overall record but a 1-0 record in region play, picking up its first victory of the season with a 50-31 win over Tri-Cities Tuesday night.

The Lady Cougars’ biggest challenge this year has been trying to replace eight seniors. However, Sierra Burston, Tiara Calloway, Marissa Carter, and LaKil Derring have to brought senior leadership to the Lady Cougars lineup.

At center, the 6-foot-7 Calloway has had several double figure games and is also playing well at the defensive end after blocking 10 shots in the game against Tri-Cities. She recently signed with Division I Alabama State during the early signing period.

“She is getting a lot more touches this year, and she is taking advantage of that,” Newnan head coach LaVarrett Pearson said of Calloway.

Pearson knows the importance of winning this game.

“It’s not only a rivalry game, but it’s a region game,” Pearson said. “If we can win this one, it could be a huge turning point for us.”

East Coweta’s lone region win has also been against Tri-Cities. But the team has dropped its last three games with a lineup made up of several freshman and sophomores around seniors Ciara Davison, Bre Tiggs and Lexy Zelczak.

The Lady Indians suffered a blow when senior Jasmine Williams was lost with an injury that forced head coach Paula Jones to play several young players, including freshmen Ayanna Reid and Eboni Williams.

“We are having to play so many younger players, but hopefully, they are going to respond down the stretch,” Jones said.

In the team’s loss to Langston Hughes Tuesday night, Williams scored seven points and was the team’s second highest scorer behind Davison who led with nine points. Davison got hot in the fourth quarter, hitting seven of her points over the last eight minutes of the game.

Right now, Jones knows her team just needs a victory following the rough start in her final year of coaching.

“It’s a big region game, but we just need a win,” Jones said. “Any win.”

The two teams will meet again on Feb. 8 at East Coweta’s John Thrower Gym to close out the regular season.

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