Seniors Dean, Griggs combine for 54 points
by Doug Gorman
The Newnan Cougars basketball team punched their ticket to the Class AAAAAA Sweet 16 with 96-80 win over visiting Coffee County on Saturday at the Max Bass Athletic Complex.
Newnan (21-8) went into the game as the No. 2 seed out of Region 1-AAAAA after falling to Douglas County in last week’s region tournament final and cranked up its offense to score its most points all season.
Newnan connected from all over the court, but stayed in front from start to finish against Coffee (18-11) thanks to 10 3-point baskets.
The Cougars — playing their fourth game in a week — drained nine of the long-range bombs in the first half and built a 46-29 lead at the break.
The busy schedule seemed to work more in Newnan’s favor than a week-long rest that Coffee had since completing the Region 1-AAAAAA tournament on Valentine’s Day.
Newnan added just one 3-pointer in the second half, but it came in dramatic fashion as Doniel Dean connected from behind half court as the third-quarter buzzer sounded to give the Cougars a 71-51 lead heading into the final period.
“We shot the ball real well,” Newnan head coach Rod Ladd said. “I am a little concerned about defense, but at this point it is all about survival.”
With the win, Newnan moves on to play either Region 2-AAAAAA champion Luella or fourth-seeded Campbell out of 4-AAAAAA in a game to be scheduled either Monday or Tuesday.
The Cougars would host this week’s second-round game should Campbell pull the upset. Both teams were set to tipoff late Saturday. A score was unavailable at deadline.
Ladd said Newnan will be ready no matter the opponent.
“We don’t have to worry about staying focused,” he said. “That won’t be a problem.”
Seven Newnan players scored en route to the first-round victory in a game where offense dictated play throughout.
Senior Immanuel Griggs had at least 10 dunks for the Cougars in the game and led the all scorers with 28 points.
With Griggs handling things inside, Dean proved he could score by driving the lane or pulling up and taking jump shots and finishing with 26 points. Diamond Jones also finished in double figures with 16 points.
Chris White, meanwhile, led the team in scoring after one quarter, opening the game with a 3-pointer to help jump start the Cougars’ offense. He equally finished strong down the stretch, going 2-for-2 from the free throw line to finish with seven points in the win.
“We have had different players step up all year,” Ladd said.
Despite its 20-point lead heading into the final period, Newnan watched the Trojans twice pull within single digits while outscoring the Cougars 22-9 to open the fourth quarter.
Jay Lott’s 3-pointer with a little more than 3:25 remaining in the game reduced the lead to 80-73.
Lott ended the game with 22 points to lead the Trojans, while Brandon Roe added 15 and Kovarius Tomlin 11.
But after Coffee closed to within seven for the last time, Newnan took control of the game for good with a 16-7 run to close out the contest.
Isaiah Houston also hit two free throws in the final minute on intentional fouls called against the Trojans. Houston finished with eight points while 6-foot-8 sophomore Jannson Williams finished with nine in the victory.
“They made a run at us, and our kids responded well with those free throws,” Ladd said.
Newnan has played some of its best basketball lately, winning five of its last seven games.
In the Region 3-AAAAAA tournament, the Cougars defeated Langston Hughes and then shocked No. 1-seed Westlake to set up a championship game against Douglas County.
COUGARS 96, TROJANS 80
COFFEE 18 11 22 29 — 80
NEWNAN 23 23 25 25 — 96
COFFEE—Tomlin 11, Lott 6, Paulk 22, D Pope 2, Simpson 9, T. Pope 9, Fussell 10, Roe 15, Williams 6
NEWNAN—White 7, Griggs 28, Jones 16, Houston 8, Dean 26, Williams 9, Portress 2