SMYRNA—There’s an old sports cliche that states it’s hard to beat a team three times in one season.
That’s a lesson, the East Coweta Indians learned the hard way in the semifinals of the Region 2-7A basketball game against Wheeler Friday night in game played at Campbell High School.
After beating the Wildcats twice in the regular season as part of its 24-1 record and regular-season region title, East Coweta played its worst game of the year, falling to Wheeler 75-49.
It was East Coweta’s first loss since Dec. 4 when it fell at Pebblebrook.
The loss drops East Coweta into the third-place game Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. where it will get its third meeting with Pebblebrook.
After losing to the Falcons in the first game on the road, East Coweta won the rematch.
Pebblebrook also lost it’s semifinal game, falling to Westlake Friday night 76-52.
East Coweta headed into the region tournament with a bye and played its first game in a week after closing out the regular-season with a victory over rival Newnan.
The Indians have clinched one of the four seeds out of Region 2-7A, but will now open the state tournament on the road.
East Coweta fell behind 24-14 at the end of the first quarter, and spent the rest of the night trying to climb out of a deep hole.
The Indians trailed 40-28 at the half.
East Coweta hardly went to the locker room at the half as head coach Royal Maxwell sent the team back on the floor with about seven minutes remaining in the break to work on its shooting.
However, the bad night continued for the Indians as it hit only two shots from the field in the third quarter and fell behind 60-36 heading into the final period.
Wheeler’s defense often limited East Coweta to one shot, controlling the defensive boards.
The normally clutch free throw shooting Indians’ also struggled from the line, finishing the game 10-of-21.
Three East Coweta players entered Friday night’s contest averaging in double figures, but this time only Chris Youngblood got into the double-figures scoring act, finishing with 15 points.
Leading scorer Fermandez Jones finished with nine and Brandon Stroud was held to seven.
Wheeler’s Samuel Hines added 16 and Charles Smith poured in 13 to pace the Wildcats.
East Coweta and Wheeler exchanged a couple of leads early in the first quarter.
Youngblood hit a 3-pointer to give East Coweta a 7-5 lead and Jones added a basket to put the Indians up 9-5.
However, the Wildcats fought back and outscored East Coweta 19-5 the rest of the first quarter.
With Wheeler trailing 11-10, Jaire Eastmond hit a basket to push the Wildcats outfront 12-11.
From there, they never trailed again.
Wheeler converted two old-fashioned three-pointers getting fouled on the shot and also converting free throws during the first-quarter scoring spurt.
East Coweta made one final run in the second quarter.
Youngblood hit two 3-point shots in the second period. His second trey cut the Wildcats’ lead to 34-26.
The Indians’ Demetrius Freeman added a second-quarter basket to cut the lead to 34-28, but that was the last time East Coweta scored in the second quarter.
Wheeler closed out the first half with the last six points, including back-to-back 3-pointers from Smith.
East Coweta’s chance for a second-half comeback ended with a nearly six minute field goal slump in the third period.
The Indians didn’t hit their first shot from the field in the second half until 2:27 left in the third period when Youngblood nailed a 3-pointer, but by that time, Wheeler led 55-34.
Derrick Emory added one more third-quarter basket for the Indians to cut the Wildcats’ lead to 60-36 heading into the final eight minutes of the game.
Wheeler finished off East Coweta in the fourth quarter, hold the Indians to just 13 points.