Special Night For ECHS: Girls honor coach with win; boys earn last-second victory
By DOUG GORMAN
East Coweta picked a perfect night to honor longtime girls' basketball coach Paula Jones.
Jones, who is retiring at the end of her 24th season at the school to close a 40-year career, guided her team to a 60-48 victory over Tri-Cities Friday night in a Region 3-AAAAAA game for career win No. 516.
A desperation heave by the Bulldogs to close the win set off wild celebration between the students and players at mid-court. It was a long-awaited first region win for the Indians (4-16, 1-7), who also were victorious for the first time since Jan. 4 while snapping an eight-game losing streak.
For East Coweta, it was the first time this season both basketball lineups won on the same night. It couldn’t have happened at a better moment.
The night started with Jones receiving a plaque at half court during a pre-game ceremony before the Lady Indians (3-16, 3-5) picked up their second win against Tri-Cities this season.
(To view photos from these games, please visit http://photos.times-herald.com/mycapture and click on Sports for the Photo Gallery.)
The victory came with a strong contingent of Lady Indians alumni watching. After the game, Jones got a chance to catch up with her former girls at a reception in her honor.
“This was really a special night,” Jones said. “There were people I hadn’t seen in years who came back for me.”
The Lady Indians enjoyed one of their most productive offensive nights of the year en route to the victory. East Coweta scored double figures in every quarter and turned a four-point lead at the half into the 12-point victory.
Ciarra Davison didn’t score in the first half, but got hot with two quick baskets to open the third quarter as part of the Lady Indians' third-quarter explosion as they pulled out to a 47-33 lead.
Davison finished the game with 10 points to pace the Lady Indians. Brandi Sinkfield and Lexi Zelczak added 8 point for the Lady Indians.
The Lady Bulldogs were paced by Tiera Wortham’s 14 points. Wortham hit a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to spark a Tri-Cities rally.
East Coweta built a 29-25 lead at the half behind a balanced scoring attack.
After taking a 14-13 lead into the second quarter, the Lady Indians held off a couple of runs by Tri-Cities to take the four-point lead into the locker room at the break.
“I think they were more nervous than I was at the start of the game, but I told them just to go out there and enjoy it and have some fun,” Jones said.
The Lady Indians were paced in the first quarter by the shooting of Kiandrea Hall who connected on two 3-point shots.
Freshman Ayanna Reid had the hot hand for the Lady Indians in the second quarter scoring four quick points. Her basket midway through the quarter gave the Lady Indians the largest lead of the night at 28-21.
Tri-Cities stayed in the game behind the play of Kyra Birdsong who scored six points in the second quarter.
East Coweta has two region games left next week, first at Douglas County and then the regular-season finale at home against rival Newnan. The Lady Indians will host the Region 3-AAAAAA tournament the following week and need just one win to in the tournament to get to state.
“That’s the goal,” Jones said. “If we can win just one game, we will get a chance to play in the state tournament and that is always the goal.”
BOYS – East Coweta 77, Tri-Cities 76
It took until almost the last week of the regular season for the Indians to get a Region 3-AAAAAA victory.
Finally after battling Tri-Cites up and down the floor for 32 minutes, the ball finally bounced the Indians way en route to a 77-76 victory.
Tri-Cities appeared to steal the game away from the Indians with under 10 seconds remaining when Jakeery Thomas grabbed the ball in the paint and scored off the glass for a one-point lead. Then East Coweta raced the back down the floor, passed it off to Zhakeer Jervey who sank the winning basket with 1.5 seconds left.
East Coweta improved to 4-16 overall and 1-7. Tri-Cities dropped to 9-11 and 3-5.
After calling a timeout, Tri-Cities threw the ball the length of the floor in hopes of getting off a last-second shot, but East Coweta’s O’Darius Kendall stepped in front of the ball and intercepted the pass.
Friday night’s region contest started out as a 3-point shooting contest with East Coweta and Tri-Cities each finishing with seven long-range jumpers.
East Coweta led 19-17 and the end of the first quarter, but Bulldogs’ Isiah Greer had three treys in the second quarter to help Bulldogs lead 38-33 at the break.
Brandon Martin finished with four 3-point shots for the Indians and finished with 14 points. Jervey finished with 15 points.
Greer hit five treys for the game and led Tri-Cities with 16 points.