The magical season of East Coweta’s boys basketball team got even better again this week.
The Indians (19-1) defeated fifth-ranked Pebblebrook 67-62 in double overtime on Tuesday and now lead Region 2 – the toughest league in Class AAAAAAA – with a 5-1 record. They’re ahead of Wheeler (5-2), Pebblebrook (4-2) and Westlake (2-3), all members of the top 10, all perennial state powers
East Coweta has not won a state-playoff game since 1964, or even made the state tournament since 2004.
In the Pebblebrook game, East Coweta overcame a six-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Christopher Youngblood scored 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting. He pulled 10 rebounds. Brandon Stroud, a 6-4 guard and four-star recruit, had 15 points and 12 rebounds.
A week ago, East Coweta upset then-No. 3 Wheeler 81-78 when Fernandez Jones scored 26 points.
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It’s been a remarkable turnaround for the program. In coach Royal Maxwell’s first three seasons, his teams finished 5-22, 14-12 and 13-13. This is season four.
Maxwell, who at 6 feet, 8 inches, is taller than all of his starters, is an Alabama native who played at Grambling and Jackson State.
Asked what had been the catalyst for the turnaround, Maxwell pointed to his current and former assistants. Associate head coach Fredrick Sippial is a childhood friend of Maxwell’s and takes on much of the in-game and practice duties. Chris Seldon is responsible for developing the feeder program.
Former assistants include Xavier Trice, now head girls basketball coach at Hughes; Ty Townsend, head boys coach at Spalding; Qwesi Lovett, associate head coach at Spalding; and Derrick Stroud, who now runs a prominent summer basketball organization.
The current road gets no easier. East Coweta, ranked No. 3, travels to No. 10 Westlake on Friday night and to No. 6 Wheeler on Saturday night.
(Note: It was previously speculated in this blog previously that East Coweta hadn’t won a state-playoff game since 1971, when the Indians made the quarterfinals. But only eight teams made the state playoffs in those days, and East Coweta lost its first game. The last playoff win came in 1964, when East Coweta was a Class C school and defeated a school called Attapulgus 55-53. And that was an upset. Attapulgus, a Decatur County school south of Bainbridge, entered 27-4. East Coweta had 13 losses, according to the Georgia Basketball Project.)
McEachern boys in semifinals of Bass Pro Tournament
McEachern, the No. 1 boys team in Class AAAAAAA, defeated previously unbeaten Springfield Catholic in the quarterfinals of the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions in Springfield, Mo., on Thursday. McEachern will play Shadow Mountain in Friday night’s semifinals. Shadow Mountain (17-1) is No. 12 nationally in the MaxPreps’ Xcellent 25 and No. 1 overall in Arizona. The tournament features five nationally ranked teams and could boost McEachern’s hopes of a national title. McEachern is ranked No. 1 by Blue Star Media and No. 2 by four other national media outlets.
Westlake’s girls to face No. 1 Buford
Westlake’s girls, ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAAAA, had been scheduled to travel to New York this weekend for a showcase tournament. That’s not happening. Instead, the Lions got up a last-minute game with Buford – the No. 1 team and defending champion in Georgia’s AAAAA. Buford is 16-1, its only loss to Norcross before Christmas. Buford has won six state titles since 2009, including the last two in AAAAA. Westlake (17-0) won its first state title in 2018.
No. 2 Meadowcreek, other 7A schools in Dream Challenge
Meadowcreek had won only five games ever in the state tournament until last season, when the Mustangs won five straight that included a shocking upset of nationally ranked Norcrcoss for the title. The Cinderella story is not over. Meadowcreek still has a trio of senior guards that can match any in the state. They are Jalen Benjamin (averaging 18 points and four assists; signed with UAB), shooting guard Jamir Chaplin (14 points, six rebounds, signed with South Florida) and Damian Dunn (13 points, seven rebounds, signed with Temple). The Mustangs’ game against Class A power Greenforest is one of the better ones Monday in the Dream Challenge, a 12-game M.L. King Jr. Day event. Several other good AAAAAAA teams are in it, including No. 4 Grayson, Berkmar, Campbell and Shiloh. Here are a couple of MLK Day tournaments with several AAAAAAA boys teams.
11:30 a.m. - Henry County vs. Salem
1 p.m. – Westside-Augusta vs. Grady
2:30 p.m. - Mill Creek vs. Tri-Cities
4 p.m. – Morgan County vs. Langston Hughes
5:30 p.m. – Shiloh vs. Greater Atlanta Christian
7 p.m. – Greenforest Christian vs. Meadowcreek
at Maynard Jackson
11 a.m. – Lakeside-Atlanta vs. Brookwood
12:30 p.m. – Aquinas vs. Maynard Jackson
2 p.m. – Whitefield Academy vs. Mays
3:30 p.m. – Grayson vs. Berkmar
5 p.m. – Campbell vs. South Atlanta
6:30 p.m. – Mount Bethel Christian vs. Woodward Academy
BCB Martin Luther King, Jr. Showcase
at Peachtree Ridge
Noon - Creekside vs. Milton
1:30 p.m. - Lakeview Academy vs. Wesleyan
3 p.m. - Newton vs. T.L. Hanna
4:30 p.m. - Peachtree Ridge vs. Heritage-Conyers
6 p.m. - Dacula vs. Etowah