Grangers begin pursuit of region title
LAGRANGE – They’re off and running.
The LaGrange Grangers kicked off their Region 1-AAAAA schedule with a 73-48 victory over the visiting Hardaway Hawks on Tuesday.
The Hawks hung around for awhile and were within eight points midway through the third period, but by the time the quarter ended the Grangers led 48-34.
The Grangers maintained control in the fourth period and never let the lead get below 14 points.
The Grangers improved to 12-2 overall, and they began defense of their region title with a one-sided home win.
Senior guard Derieko Smith paced the Grangers with 18 points, and post player Bryan Fanning added 10 points.
No one else was in double figures, but 11 players scored, including Alex Dantzler and Quez Jackson, who came off the bench and scored eight points apiece.
Jaquan Daniels paced Hardaway with 18 points.
“I thought we had some guys coming off the bench that stepped up and gave us a spark,” LaGrange head coach Mark Veal said. “I thought Quez Jackson did. He plays hard. He created some stuff for us.”
Smith, the region’s player of the year last season, was coming off a 28-point performance in an overtime win over Lithia Springs, and he had 24 points in the game before that against Upson-Lee.
While he’s riding a hot streak right now, Smith said he’s making sure not to press and force shots.
“I have to take what’s there, not take bad shots,” Smith said.
It was Smith who helped the Grangers take charge early.
After Fanning scored to give the Grangers a 7-5 lead, Smith scored five points in a row to push the lead to seven, and they were ahead 21-10 at the close of the first period.
Fanning helped the Grangers get off to the quick start with seven points in the first quarter.
Bo Russell made the Grangers’ only field goal in the second period, but they were 9-of-11 from the free-throw line, and they were ahead 32-18 at the half.
The Hawks got as close as eight points with 2:45 left in the third period, but the Grangers went on a 7-1 run to take a 48-34 lead into the fourth quarter.
Smith led the third-quarter charge for the Grangers with nine points, and LaPerion Perry had four points in the quarter with a 3-pointer.
Any hope the Hawks had of mounting a comeback was dashed early on in the fourth quarter.
Back-to-back baskets by Fanning and Dantzler gave the Grangers a 58-37 lead with three minutes to play.
From that point on, LaGrange never led by fewer than 17 points.
Eight different players scored in the fourth quarter for LaGrange, including Daz Williams who made a 3-pointer, and Dantzler, who scored six of his eight points.
LaGrange will look to collect a couple more region wins this weekend.
LaGrange has road games against Columbus High on Friday and Carver on Saturday.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports