By: Paul Slobodzian
Despite an up-and-down beginning to the regular season for Head Coach Rogeric Ladd’s Newnan Varsity boys’ basketball team, the group has battled throughout the first half of the season and has set itself up for a run at the state playoffs.
The season started slowly with losses in five of the team’s first seven games, but the Cougars bounced back with wins in seven of their next ten games, including five straight at one point.
“Our season has been up and down so far,” Coach Ladd stated. “We’ve had some injuries that threw us backwards.”
Jannson Williams, Captain of the team and NHS senior, has been instrumental in carrying the team through the low points of the season when his fellow captain teammates Khalil McCoy and Kameron Grant faced month-long injuries.
“Any game that was close,” Jannson said, “we could’ve easily won. Any game that was close, we were low on free throws. Our goal is twenty to twenty-five free throws per game, and we’ve been shooting thirteen to fourteen whenever we lose.”
Six of the team’s ten losses have been decided by ten points or fewer, and free throws have been crucial in deciding those games. Shooting a high free throw percentage and getting to the foul ten to twelve times a game is not the only thing that will determine the outcomes of games, though.
Sticking together as team through the peaks and valleys can play a pivotal role in success and defeat.
“I am proud of the guys, because we have stuck together,” Coach Ladd said. “Some games have not gone our way, but we have continued to improve.”
A turning point in the season came on January 8 when NHS traveled across the county to play East Coweta in a heated rivalry game. The Cougars wound up coming away with a convincing 70-25 win against the Indians.
“I had three fouls in the first quarter and fouled again when the second quarter started,” Jannson remembered. “If I fouled one more time, I was out, so I was riding the bench cheering on my teammates. Our JV came in, and it was just a great day.”
The resounding victory marked the first time either side had come away with such a drastic difference in the scores.
“Every time we play EC, it’s always close,” Jannson commented. “No matter how good either team is, it’s always going to be a close game because of the rivalry. This is the first time in about five years that we’ve beat them that bad.”
The rivalry demolition looked like it was going to jumpstart the season a bit, but the Cougars have since lost back-to-back games including a one-point defeat against Langston Hughes and a thirty-one point loss against Westlake.
“I thought we were ready to hit our stride,” Coach Ladd mentioned. “But after the last two games, it’s back to the drawing board.”
Coach Hap Hines, NHS Athletics coach, took notice of the performance against East Coweta as well as the Langston Hughes and Westlake. He said that he looks forward to watching the team play with “more intensity.”
The Cougars have six games remaining in the season to make up as much ground as possible in the AAAAAA Region 3 basketball standings. The six games left on the schedule are all regional matchups, so Coach Ladd and his team are poised to make a run to the top of standings and clinch a spot in the playoffs.
“I expect us to continue to improve and make the state playoffs,” Coach Ladd said. “In our region, the key is getting to the state tournament and anything could happen.”
Every upcoming game over the next few weeks for NHS Basketball is highly anticipated, and they are all incredibly important to the postseason for the team. While each approaching game is crucial, Coach Hines commented that “the next one’s always the biggest one.”
With the exception of a February 2nd matchup against Campbell High School, the other five games will be held at Newnan, and the team, as well as everyone else in the gym, thrives off the student section when it is excited during a game.
“When the students are hopping,” Coach Hines stated, “it gives everybody else a little more fire. It seems like they [Cougar basketball players] play harder.”