All-County Boys Basketball
Dean's List: Newnan junior's clutch play earns him Player of Year honors
by Doug Gorman
If the Newnan’s boys basketball team was looking for a nickname to best describe junior Doniel Dean, it might just be Mr. Clutch.
In his third year as a major contributor to the program, Dean continued to grow into a well-rounded player while leading the Cougars to a the Class AAAAAA state playoffs with a 17-11 overall record and a 5-5 mark in league play.
It was a long way where Dean began his varsity career as Newnan struggled in a three-win campaign as a freshman.
Boy have times changed.
Dean helped the Cougars advance to this year’s Region 3-AAAAAA championship and into the first round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs where their season ended with a loss to Morrow. The Cougars’ guard led the team’s offensive punch most nights, averaging 17 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists per contest.
Those numbers are good enough to earn Dean honors as this year’s The Newnan-Times Herald Player of the Year.
Dean is one three Cougars to earn a spot on this year’s all-county team. Joining him are junior center Immanuel Griggs, last year’s Player of the Year, and senior guard Kaceon Person.
The Newnan trio is joined on the All-County team by Heritage School senior center Garrett Jones, East Coweta senior O’Darius Kendell and Northgate senior guard Luke Motzel.
On at least two occasions, the Cougars set up Dean for the final shot and he delivered the game winner.
One of the Dean’s best performances of the season came when he hit a shot at the buzzer to help the Cougars beat Langston Hughes. Trailing 61-60 with four seconds remaining in the game, the Cougars got the ball into their sharpshooting guard and he delivered the game winner.
Dean’s ability to nail down clutch shots is a big reason why Newnan head coach Rod Ladd always seemed to have confidence in his shooter.
“It was an isolation play to him,” Ladd said after the victory back in February. “I called two plays for him during the timeout, and they were in man, so we were able to get a little motion around the base line, and isolate on him and it worked.”
Dean set the tone early in the year when he delivered the eventual game-winner in a 50-49 victory over Sandy Creek. After missing one of two free throws late in the game, Griggs rebounded Dean’s missed shot, and kicked it back out to him. With 11 seconds left, Dean fired the ball back at the basket for what turned out to be the game-winning shot.
He had set the tone early in the game by hitting three 3-pointers in the first half.
While Dean was hitting shots from the outside and also showing his ability to set up the fast-break by dribbling into the lane, Griggs was controlling things in the paint for the Cougars.
Griggs finished his junior campaign averaging a double-double. He was the team’s second leading scorer, dishing in 11 points and 10 rebounds per game while averaging two blocked shots per contest.
One of Griggs best performances came during an 18-point effort in a 78-68 victory against Douglas County. After scoring just two points in the first half against the Tigers, he caught fire by scoring 16 points over the final 16 minutes.
Person helped give depth to the Cougars the guard position. The senior ended his high school career averaging 8 points per game and four rebounds
Despite struggling through a 4-19 overall season and a 1-9 mark in league play, senior forward O’Darius Kendall did a little bit of everything for East Coweta to earn his spot on this year’s All-County team.
Kendall finished as the Indians’ leading scorer, averaging 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. He also posted double figures in 13 of his 23 games played while scoring season highs of 16 points in games against Heard County, Sandy Creek and Newnan.
Northgate’s Luke Motzel was part of team history this season for the Vikings, as the senior point guard helped push the Vikings into the Class AAAAA playoffs for the first time in school history. It came in head coach Mack Cain’s final season on the bench, making the ride even more enjoyable.
Northgate used a dramatic win over Mundy’s Mill and an upset of subregion champion McIntosh to make the state playoffs.
He finished the season by averaging 12 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds per game.
Heritage School senior Garrett Jones turned in a stellar performance for the Hawks in their first year at the Class AAA level, the GISA’s highest classification.
The Hawks’ center led his team to the state playoffs, while earning all GISA Region 1-AAA and state honors. He battled through back problems the entire year before having surgery last week.
Jones’ finished his career at Heritage School averaging 12 points, eight rebounds and two blocks per game. He was also named to the All-Tournament squad during the school’s annual Christmas tournament.
Jones, who scored 24 points in a game against eventual state champion Loganville Christian and 22 against Calvary, concluded his high school career by participating in last weekend’s GISA All-Star game against private schools from South Carolina.
A pair of players also earned honorable mention on this year’s team — East Coweta senior Jeremy Farmer and Northgate senior Adrian Tolbert.
NEWNAN TIMES-HERALD ALL-COUNTY BOYS BASKETBALL TEAM
PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Pos., Name, School, Year, Accolades
Guard – Doniel Dean, Newnan, Jr., 17 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists per game
Center – Immanuel Griggs, Newnan, Jr., 11 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks per game
Center – Garrett Jones, Heritage School, Sr., 12 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks per game
Forward – O’Darius Kendall, East Coweta, Sr., 10.2 points, 7.7 rebounds per game
Guard – Luke Motzel, Northgate, Sr., 12 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds per game
Guard – Kaceon Person, Newnan, Sr., 8 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists per game
East Coweta — G Jeremy Farmer, Jr.; Northgate — C Adrian Tolbert, Sr.