GHSA State Basketball Tournament
Newnan boys open today against Coffee at home
by Doug Gorman
Newnan earned its way to today home first-round state tournament game today against Coffee with its biggest victory of the season.
Now the Cougars will need a similar effort to keep playing on into next week.
Coming off a strong 2-1 effort in the Region 3-AAAAAA state tournament that included an upset of state-ranked Westlake and an overtime loss to Douglas County as a fourth-seeded underdog, Newnan (19-8) looks to advance to the Sweet 16 with a win today at 4 p.m. against Coffee (18-10) at the Max Bass Athletic Complex.
The Trojans, who finished as the No. 3 seed out of Region 1-AAAAAA, are coming off a 57-47 win over Valdosta but have struggled to string together back-to-back wins since defeating region rivals Camden County and Lowndes on Jan. 21 and 24.
Since then, Coffee has gone 3-5 with a roster led by senior captains Brandon Roe (6-2, 190) and Dikembe Deberry (5-10, 175) that may have matchup programs with Newnan's pair of 6-8 post players.
After struggling in mid-January over a stretch that included losses in four of five 3-AAAAAA games, the Cougars seem to have again found their stride in February.
Since holding off Douglas County on Feb. 5, Newnan has gone 4-2 with losses against Westlake and Douglas County, the latter an 81-78 overtime defeat in Tuesday's Region 3-AAAAAA championship game. The Cougars have been at their best in the third quarter, outscoring Westlake 21-13 and then closing a 14-point halftime deficit to four to jump back into Tuesday's title game against Douglas County.
Newnan rallied back behind efforts from Doniel Dean, who led the team with a team-high 28 point effort, as well as Immanuel Griggs and Diamond Jones.
Dean hit a shot just before time expired to send cap the rally and send the game into overtime.
Newnan pulled off a huge upset over Westlake in Monday's semifinals after trailing by five after one quarter and six at halftime. The top-seeded Lions (25-3), who finished third and will make the long ride to Brunswick, entered the region tournament with only one loss to an opponent inside Georgia.
The Cougars face their fourth game over a seven-day span due to last week's postponements due to weather.
Newnan's biggest challenge could be stopping 5-10 junior guard Tyree Paulk and Roe, each of whom are averaging double figures.
Yet the Cougars enter today with a size advantage that includes a pair of 6-foot-8 post players in Griggs, a senior, and Jannson Williams, a sophomore who has gained added playing time in his second varsity season.
In addition to getting the ball inside, Newnan has seen guards Chris White, Kameron Grant, Jake Kneidel and Isaiah Houston all led the team in scoring during games during the regular season. Senior power-forward Tonarius Portress, at 6-2, 225-pounds, also provides a large presence in the paint for opponents.
Against Douglas County, Jones used three 3-pointers to help keep the Cougars in the game.
The winner of today's game advances to the Sweet 16 and will face either Region 2-AAAAAA champion Luella (18-8) and 7-foot junior Doral Moore or 4-AAAAAA No. 4 seed Campbell.