Grangers prevail in overtime thriller
LAGRANGE – The Northside Patriots have seen enough of LaGrange High’s Mike Hardy.
In the semifinals of last year’s Region 1-AAAAA tournament, Hardy hit a game-winning shot to lift LaGrange to a dramatic win over Northside.
On Friday night, those teams were together again, this time in the final game of the regular season.
The stakes were high once again, with the top seed in next week’s region tournament on the line.
With time winding down in the first overtime period, the Grangers had the ball in a tie game with a chance to walk away with that top seed.
With less than five seconds left, Derieko Smith got a shot away that was off the mark, and when the ball came off the rim, Hardy was in the right spot.
Hardy went up and got the rebound, and before he hit the ground, he banked the ball in to give the Grangers the lead with one second left on the clock.
Hardy was fouled on the play, and he made the free throw to complete the three-point play.
The Patriots were able to get a desperation shot away that didn’t fall, and the Grangers had a thrilling 71-68 victory before a packed house at LaGrange High.
With the win, LaGrange (20-5) secured the number one seed for the region tournament, and it will host a semifinal game.
Early in the fourth quarter of Friday’s game, it looked like Northside was possibly headed for the big road win.
The Patriots were ahead by 10 points, and the Grangers were struggling to get anything going offensively.
The Grangers fought back to tie it at 62-62 at the end of regulation, though, and they outscored the Patriots 9-6 in the four-minute overtime period.
“That game could have gone so many ways,” LaGrange head coach Mark Veal said. “It looked like we were dead in the water. We’re very fortunate to be in the situation we’re in, regular-season region champs.”
Veal added that “the kids played their hearts out tonight.”
For Hardy, it was a special night.
He was one of the seniors honored before the game, and then he went out and had one of those moments he’ll always treasure.
Hardy and fellow post player Kenan Gray both came through big in Friday’s game.
Gray led the Grangers with 18 points, and he made some huge plays on both ends of the court in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Hardy added 13 points, with two of those points coming at the end of the game to raise the decibel level in the LaGrange gym to earthquake-type levels.
“I’m so happy for Mike,” Veal said. “I’m proud of how Mike stepped up and played. I’m proud of how Kenan stepped up and played.”
LaPerion Perry added 13 points for the Grangers, and Gabe Duckett scored 11 points.
As the third quarter came to a close, the Grangers trailed 52-44, and moments into the fourth period their deficit was 10 points.
LaGrange began to chip away at Northside’s lead, and when Hardy scored with 3:20 left, it was a 57-53 game.
After the Patriots went back up by seven, Duckett’s 3-pointer got the Grangers within four once again.
Then with 1:58 to play, Gray got an offensive rebound and scored, and the game was tied 60-60.
The Patriots went back up by two, but with 13 seconds left, Gray scored again to tied it at 62-62, and that’s the way regulation ended.
The Grangers were down by a point in overtime when Perry made a free throw with 58 seconds left to tie it at 68-68.
With 15 seconds remaining, the Grangers got the ball with the game still tied, setting up Hardy’s heroics.
“It was a matter of heart and playing physical,” Hardy said. “When the guards had it tough, the big guys picked it up.”
In Friday’s girls’ game, it was Northside coming away with a 54-33 victory.
Aryan Dozier paced the Lady Grangers with 16 points.
The Lady Grangers got off to a slow start, falling behind 10-4 after the first period, and they trailed 22-12 at the half.
Northside continued to pull away in the second half.
LaGrange will be the number six seed in the region tournament, and it will play fifth-seeded Harris County on Tuesday at Northside High.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports