High School Basketball

Cougars stumble at finish in loss to Tri-Cities

Cougars stumble at finish in loss to Tri-Cities

A two-point defeat to a one-loss Westlake team on Friday at home could have been as much a moral victory for Newnan’s basketball team.

But it was hard to mask the disappointment in the Cougars’ faces following a 63-58 defeat during Saturday’s makeup game against Tri-Cities.

With a chance to put a buzzer-beater behind them in a 62-60 loss to Westlake, which lost its only game to an out-of-state opponent, Newnan took leads of nine and 11 points on opposite ends of halftime against the Bulldogs on Saturday, but managed to leave the weekend without a victory.

The meeting against Tri-Cities, which was postponed due to cold weather on Jan. 7, was the first since the two teams battled it out in last year’s Region 3-AAAAAA championship game at East Coweta, with Newnan looking for a bit of revenge, and again coming up just short after being outscored by the Bulldogs 22-10 in the fourth quarter Saturday.

Down 59-58, Newnan missed back-to-back shots, then had a final 3-point try clang off the rim with 12 seconds remaining while looking to send the game into overtime.

The back-to-back Region 3-AAAAAA losses left the Cougars at 2-2 and 14-4 overall while taking their first losing streak of the year into Tuesday’s home game against Langston Hughes. Tri-Cities improved to 3-1 in 3-AAAAAA and 9-8 overall.

Attempting 21 free-throws in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs were able to chisel away at its largest deficit of the game despite falling behind 48-41 heading into the final period and then being held scoreless from the field for the next 3:40 of play.

Even after watching a 20-11 lead vanish after nine unanswered points from the Bulldogs early in the second quarter, Newnan fought to regain an 11-point advantage by the earliest moments of the fourth in a game where the lead changed hands a dozen times over the final 24 minutes, with the Cougars taking a 31-29 edge into halftime following a pair of free throws by Kameron Grant and then pushing it out further in the second half.

Doniel Dean’s dunk with under six minutes to play put the Cougars ahead 55-45 and moments later a pass underneath from Grant to Tonarius Portress increased Newnan’s advantage to 11 with the Bulldogs struggling to make a basket.

Tri-Cities managed to make the most of 21 attempts from the line in the fourth quarter, connecting on just 12, but hitting three of its last four in the final minute to take a 59-58 lead before icing the game with 3.5 seconds to go on Emmanuel Raney’s pair.

Along the way, the Bulldogs equally forced Newnan center Immanuel Griggs to foul out with less than two minutes to go on a charge call, with Shawntez Davis’ ensuing free-throw tying the game at 58 apiece.

Griggs and fellow 6-foot-8 Cougar Jannson Williams teamed for 14 points, eight of which came in the second and third quarters as Newnan held a lead for an 11-minute span in the second half.

Dean connected on a pair of three-pointers in the third en route a team-high 17-point effort, but was held to just his fourth-quarter dunk for one of three field-goals from Newnan in the fourth quarter.

With Griggs out for the final two minutes, Tri-Cities continued to attempt to force the ball inside in a game where Davis had 11 of his team-high 21 points in the final two quarters.

Raney polished off a 17-point outing with nine in the fourth quarter while also 5 of 6 from the free-throw line.

Williams had nine points for Newnan in the loss and Diamond Jones had eight, seven of which came before halftime.

Tri-Cities 11 18 12 22 — 63

Newnan 18 13 17 10 — 58

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