BY DOUG GORMAN
East Coweta boys basketball coach Royal Maxwell talks to his team all the time about defending its turf.
Thursday night at home, the Indians bent but did not break, rallying from a double-digit deficit to beat Wheeler 81-78 in a Region 2-7A game.
The victory kept East Coweta unbeaten at home and improved its record to 17-1 overall and 4-1 in region play.
Wheeler also came into the contest with just one region loss, but fell to 14-6 overall and 4-2 in league play.
It’s the fastest start in school history for an East Coweta team that has positioned itself to contend for a spot in the state playoffs.
Wheeler had a shot to send the game into overtime in the final seconds of the game, but three 3-point jumpers all missed the mark.
Fermandez Jones finished with 25 points, Brandon Stroud added 21 and Chris Youngblood finished with 12 points to lead East Coweta to the win.
Jaire Eastmond finished with 21 for Wheeler.
Wheeler led 45-36 at one stretch when the tide turned in favor of the Indians after the Wildcats were called for three technical fouls.
East Coweta fought its way back in the third quarter getting 3-pointers from Jones, Stroud and Rhet Reynolds.
After a couple of led changes late in the third quarter, Wheeler led 60-58 heading into the final eight minutes of the game.
East Coweta again used 3-point shots in the fourth quarter to regain the momentum.
After the game was tied at 62-all early in the fourth quarter, Stroud gave the Indians a 65-62 lead with one of the 3-pointers.
Wheeler cut the lead to 65-64 on a basket by Eastmond.
Jones answered right back for East Coweta after hitting a 3-pointer to give the Indians a 68-64 lead.
With just over three minutes to gbo in the game, Reynolds knocked down the last of the Indians’ treys.
With under a minute to go in the contest, the Indians, Derrick Emory and Stroud each hit one of two free throws to put some distance between the Indians and the Wildcats.
East Coweta began the game on a roll building a 16-6 lead in the first quarter after hitting four 3-pointers.
Youngblood’s second trey of the contest gave East Coweta a 9-2 lead.
A two-point basket by Emory gave East Coweta the double-digit lead at 16-6, but Wheeler responded right back with a 10-0 run extending into the second quarter.
Two dunks by Sam Harris in the second quarter helped the Wildcats seize the momentum and extend the lead to 37-33 at the break.
With the victory, East Coweta extended its winning streak to nine games.
East Coweta steps out of region play Saturday afternoon at Washington High School in Atlanta.