Published Sunday, February 17, 2013
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN
Newnan's basketball team couldn't have picked a more inopportune time to have its poorest offensive performance of the year — maybe the last three seasons combined.
Averaging a shade over 57 points-per-game heading into Saturday's Region 3-AAAAAA championship against Tri-Cities, the Cougars' offense fell silent in a stunning 44-30 loss to a No. 5 seeded Bulldogs lineup that capped off its Cinderella run.
The defense was there against a Tri-Cities team that outsized Newnan, but not always outmuscled them despite leading from start to finish.
Instead, the Bulldogs (12-13) — fresh off an upset of top-seeded Westlake — simply made more shots, choosing to get most of its points in the paint and in transition against third-seeded Newnan (17-10), which two days earlier had put together a stunning 25-point second quarter to advance in the region semifinals against Douglas County.
Despite rallying back from an 11-1 deficit to open the game to pull within seven at halftime, it was clear from the opening tip that there wasn't going to be a repeat from Thursday's win.
Newnan missed its first five field-goal attempts of the game, then went 0-for-9 after opening the final period down by 10 while being forced to settle for this year's 3-AAAAAA runner-up trophy and the No. 2 seed heading into this week's Class AAAAAA state playoff opener.
The Cougars will host Morrow, the No. 3 seed from Region 2-AAAAAA, on Wednesday at 6 p.m., the benefit of beating Douglas County in the semifinals.
But even head coach Rod Ladd couldn't quite explain how his team went from one of its best offensive surges of the region tournament to its absolute worst.
"We haven't shot the ball like that all year, maybe since we were 3 for 22," said Ladd, referring not to shot percentage, but Newnan's record during the 2009-10 season when talented juniors Doniel Dean and Immanuel Griggs were incoming freshman for an up-and-coming Cougars team. "To hold them to 44 points, I thought we did a good job defensively. We just couldn't score."
While Ladd went deep into the lineup on a night where both teams battled foul trouble through most of four quarters, the duo combined for 24 of Newnan's 30 points, divided equally among them.
The bulk of which came in chunks on opposite ends of halftime. Down 14-7 after one quarter while responding from the early 10-point deficit, Dean scored seven of his 12 in the second, hitting consecutive jumpers to open the period.
The latter pulled Newnan to within five before teammate Tae Parks pulled down an offensive rebound and pushed the ball back out to guard Kaceon Person for a 3-pointer that pulled the Cougars to within a 16-14 deficit.
But it was as close as it got. From there, Newnan's perimeter game went silent as guards Person, Darrell Morrow, Diamond Jones and — all accomplished shooters — missed a combined 14 attempts over the final 20 minutes of play.
On the other end of the floor, Tri-Cities guards Isaiah Greer and Emmanuel Rainey used their quickness in transition to lead the way with 13 and eight points, respectively. Greer opened the night by connecting on three of his first four attempts in the opening period.
Dean, meanwhile, was held in check through nearly the entire second half while picking up his fourth foul on a technical coming out of a timeout.
Newnan's big men, 6-6 freshman Jannson Williams and the 6-8 Griggs, tried to offset Tri-Cities' size – led by 6-7 center Shawntrez Davis.
Williams' pretty putback on a reverse under the basket pulled the Cougars to within a 22-17 deficit and Griggs broke a long scoring drought of his own with a thundering dunk from the baseline moments later to keep Newnan within seven.
En route to his 12 points, Griggs scored five of the Cougars' eight points in the third quarter but was limited to free throws the rest of the way.
Even there, Newnan struggled, hitting half of its first six attempts and finishing 9 of 18 from the line.
Ladd, though, has seen too many good nights out of the Cougars to feel his team can't rebound this week to open the state playoffs.
"We took another step," he said. "We'll get right back to work on Monday and fix it. We still have another game to play."
SCORING SUMMARY – Tri-Cities 44, Newnan 30
Tri-Cities 14 8 11 11 — 44
Newnan 7 8 8 7 — 30
Tri-Cities 44 (12-13) – Deandre Slaughter 13, Emmanuel Rainey 8, Shawntrez Davis 5, Jakerry Thomas 7, Charles Stokes 7, Chris Cheever 4.
Newnan 30 (17-10) – Kaceon Person 3, Darrell Morrow 1, Doniel Dean 12, Immanuel Griggs 12, Jannson Williams 2.
EAST COWETA FINISHES FOURTH: The Lady Indians lost Saturday's third-place game to Westlake, falling to the Lady Lions 67-31 for the third time this season, while now taking the No. 4 seed from Region 3-AAAAAA into the state playoffs.
"We just didn't play very well at all," said East Coweta head coach Paula Jones, whose team fell to 5-20.
East Coweta, in Jones' final season prior to her retirement, travels to play Region 2-AAAAAA champion Alcovy (20-6) on Tuesday. Game time had yet to be announced by late Saturday night.
Alcovy defeated Newton 57-51 in Saturday's 2-AAAAAA girls championship game.
(Editor's Note: The Times-Herald incorrectly published Saturday's tipoff times for the tournament. We regret the error. Log on to www.twitter.com @nthsports for daily updates of breaking sports news.)