Travis Johnson hit a corner 3-pointer with 3 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Newnan Cougars a spectacular, come-from-behind 52-51 win over the Hiram Hornets Thursday evening in the second day of the Newnan Holiday Classic.
It was a classic win for the Cougars, who stopped their losing streak and won their first game in their own tournament to improve to 6-8 overall. Hiram’s woes would continue as it dropped a game it had in the bag to fall to 3-8 overall.
Newnan led 10-9 after the first quarter, but Hiram took control of the game and led 26-19 at the half and held the Cougars to only seven points in the third quarter, taking a 38-26 lead.
The action heated up in the fourth quarter. Hiram led 43-33 and was in total control with about 4:50 left in regulation. But the Hornets — particularly point guard Darius Johnson — started missing free throws down the stretch and the Cougars cut the lead to 43-38, and then Newnan’s Klynell Johnson made two big shots to make the score 43-42 with 42.9 seconds left.
Hiram’s Lance Smith finally made a free throw for the 44-42 lead with 27 seconds left, but Newnan’s Nick Parks calmly swished a jumper in the paint as time ran out to tie the game at 44 and sent it to overtime.
Newnan scored five quick points at the start of overtime to lead 49-46, but Hiram’s Nick Cook sank a trey to tie the game at 49 with 1:00 left. The Hornets sank two free throws for the 51-49 lead with 15.3 seconds remaining in overtime, setting the stage for Newnan. The Cougars ran a play to isolate Parks on the wing to tie the game again, but the Hornets trapped Parks and he passed it to Travis Johnson in the corner, who hit his game-winning shot to the delight of the home crowd.
Hiram’s desperation shot at the buzzer fell short, and the excited Cougars mobbed Travis on the court.
“The plan was to isolate Nick and give him a shot, but he made a great pass to me when he was double-teamed. It was do-or-die and it was just my time to hit the shot,” said Travis Johnson, who finished with 6 points. “I didn’t catch the ball cleanly, but when I gathered myself and shot it, I knew it was going in. I’m glad we bounced back from our rough loss Wednesday to get a win in our own tournament.”
Newnan head coach Rogeric Ladd was proud of his team’s effort in the second half.
“We didn’t execute well in the first half, but we played better in the second half, for sure. When TJ shot the ball, it looked good from my vantage point,” Ladd said. “For us to rally like that in the fourth quarter shows that our energy level was up and shows we had the character to come back. I’m pleased with the guys for stepping up at the end.”
Elijah Jefferson of Hiram led all scorers with 19 points, followed by 11 each from Cook and Khalil Baker. Parks scored 18 points and Klynell Johnson chipped in 9 points and 12 rebounds for Newnan, which hosts Forest Park at 7:30 p.m. today in the Classic finale.
In girls action, Miranda Hill led a balanced Newnan High attack with 9 points as the Lady Cougars beat Coretta Scott King 56-18 in the late game Thursday. Newnan (6-7) plays Miller Grove at 6 p.m. today in the finale of the Classic.