By DOUG GORMAN
Tuesday night’s non-region basketball game between the Newnan Cougars and the Whitewater Wildcats was a little bit like a close prize fight.
One team would take control for a time and after picking itself up off the canvas, the other team would rally back.
In the end, however, it was Newnan getting the decision with a hard-fought 54-50 victory on their own court.
With the win, Newnan improved to 2-2 overall. Whitewater dropped to 1-3.
“It was good to pull out the win,” said Newnan head coach Rod Ladd. “It’s early and there are some things we need to work on, especially on defense, but it is something we can build on.”
The Cougars’ win came after three dramatic quarters of basketball, and three ties, including 19-all after the first quarter, 30-all after the second quarter and 40-all heading into the final period.
Tay Watson took over the game early in the fourth quarter when he connected on a three-pointer, driving to the basket and also getting fouled.
After he sank the free throw, the Cougars led 43-40 and never trailed again.
Watson finished with 17 points to lead the Cougars. He also answered with a couple of key defensive rebounds during the final period.
Harrison Drake came up with a clutch 3-pointer and also forced a turnover late in the fourth quarter to help key the victory
After Whitewater closed the gap to 51-48, Watson’s third dunk of the night gave the Cougars a 53-48 lead.
Whitewater’s Kwon Bush cut the gap to 53-50 with just 20 seconds left when he scored a basket for the last of his team-leading 12 points.
From there, Stargell closed out the game hitting one of two free throws.
Fans should have known they were in for a tight contest just seconds into the game when sophomore point guard Jamar Stargell threw a lob high above the basket to Watson who answered with a monster dunk.
Whitewater’s answer early was long-range jumpers. The Wildcats drained four 3-pointers for the bulk of their scoring in the first quarter.
However, after the Wildcats built a 19-16 lead late in the period, Zion Brown’s 3-pointer tied the game heading into the second quarter.
Whitewater continued to bang down three 3-pointers in the second quarters.
Javon Jenkins final trey of the second quarter pushed the Wildcats lead to 30-25, but Newnan went on a 5-0 run right before the end of the first half.
Drake’s basket cut the lead to 30-29 before Stargell connected on a free throw to send the game into the locker room tied at 30-all.
Jaden Berry gave the Cougars a brief 32-30 lead in the third quarter on an early basket and also continued his offensive fireworks on baskets that forced two more ties.
“There’s a lot of unity on this team,” Ladd said. “We are getting a lot of senior leadership and that is good to see.”
Newnan gets back into action Friday night at Central-Carrollton.
Whitewater 55, Newnan 36 (girls): The
Whitewater Lady Wildcats took control early and it translated into a 55-36 non-region victory.
After Aniya Carter connected on a Newnan basket to tie the game at 2-all, Whitewater answered right back when Sole Chinery drilled a 3-pointer.
The Lady Wildcats pushed the lead to 12-7 at the end of the first quarter and 29-21 at the break.
The second quarter turned sloppy at both ends of the floor and Whitewater spent a lot of time at the free throw line.
Whitewater finished the second quarter 10-of-11 from the free throw line.
Newnan attempted to stay in the game second quarter on 3-point baskets Joy Butts, and Carter.
The Lady Wildcats extended the lead to 46-23 at the end of the third quarter as Carter scored the only basket for Newnan time running out.
Carter finished with 15 point for Newnan.
Courtney Smith added 17 points for Whitewater including three 3-pointers.
EAST COWETA BOYS 83, STARR’S MILL 77: The Indians continued their early-season surge, staying undefeated thanks to a dominating third-quarter in an evenly matched contest in Fayetteville.
East Coweta held a slim 16-13 lead after one period before both teams ramped up the tempo with matching 22-point outbursts in the second.
But in the third, the Indians outscored Starr’s Mill 20-10 to pull away before having to withstand a 32-point fourth quarter by the Panthers.
East Coweta now takes a 7-0 record into Friday’s Region 2-7A opener at home against Westlake in the first meeting between teams since the Indians were defeated on a buzzer-beater by the Lions at home in the 2017-18 postseason tournament.
STARR’S MILL GIRLS 55, EAST COWETA 37: At home, the Lady Panthers picked up their first win of the season while East Coweta’s girls fell to 1-6 overall.