GHSA Basketball Tournament
Cougars’ Elite 8 hopes cut short by Luella
by Doug Gorman
LOCUST GROVE-Newnan's hopes of advancing to the Class AAAAAA Elite 8 came crashing down Tuesday with a 52-42 loss to Region 2-AAAAAA champion Luella in the second round of the state boys basketball tournament.
The Cougars ended a 21-9 season while the Lions (20-8) advanced to play either Pebblebrook or Brunswick game in the Class AAAAAA quarterfinals later this week.
Newnan lost the game after failing to capitalize on a 25-24 lead at the half.
The Cougars entered the contest playing some of their best basketball of the year, including beating top-seed Westlake at the Region 3-AAAAAA tournament before falling to Douglas County in overtime in the region finals. Newnan flexed its offensive muscle in the f irst round of the tournament scoring 96 points in its victory over Coffee County, but the Cougars fell far short of that type of offense against the Lions.
'We sure could have used some of those points from Saturday,' said Newnan head coach Rod Ladd.'We just didn't shoot the ball very well.'
They can blame the Lions' 7-foot junior Doral Moore for some of the distraction.
Moore redirected several of the Cougars shots and also crashed the boards to set up scoring chances for the Lions throughout the night.
The Cougars led 12-8 at the end of the first quarter, getting a 3-point shot from senior Diamond Jones who had the hot hand early for Newnan.
Jones added a second trey with 6:34 remaining in the first half to push the Cougars out to a 17-10 lead, but that seemed to ignite something in the Lions.
Lu e l l a wh i t t l e d awa y a t the lead thanks to the play of TeMarcus Glanton and Moore. Glanton's dunk late in the second quarter gave the Lions their first lead of the game at 22-21.
A pair of free throws by Jones was the start of three lead changes to close out the first half as Newnan grabbed a 23-22 lead.
Blanton then answered with two free throws of his own to give the Lions a 24-23 lead.
Cougars senior guard Doniel Dean, however, stepped up right before the end of the first half with a basket to give Newnan the one-point lead at the break.
Another basket by Dean to open the third quarter gave the Cougars a 27-24 lead and some early second-half momentum.
But it didn't last long.
Blanton drilled a 3-point shot for the Lions to tie the game at 27.
The Luella standout was just getting started, finishing the quarter with two 3-point shots to help Luella take a 37-31 lead heading into the final period.
The Lions' senior led all scorers with 25 points and iced the game away in the fourth quarter hitting four of five free throws. Moore added 12 points to help Luella advance to the third round of the Class AAAAAA tournament.
Newnan normally spreads the offensive wealth, but in Tuesday's season ending loss, only four players scored for the Cougars with Dean scoring 20 and Jones finishing with 15.
Six seniors ended the their varsity careers for the Cougars including four-year starters Dean and Immanuel Griggs. Along with Jones, Chris White,, Jake Kneidel, Anferney Turner and Tonarius Portress also played their final games in Newnan uniforms.
'These guys really helped put us on the map, Ladd said. 'We didn't win many games their first year, but we kept getting better. We got better every year and finished with 20 this year. The guys coming back will have to establish their own legacy.'
LIONS 52, COUGARS 42
NEWNAN 12 13 6 11-42 LUELLA 8 16 13 15-52 NEWNAN-Griggs 5, Jones 15, Dean 20, Portress 2 LUELLA-Moore 12, Blanton 25, Terrell 4, McNeal 6, Green 5