Everything was going their way.
After scoring five straight points in the fourth period, the LaGrange Grangers were leading the Callaway Cavaliers by 11 points, and they appeared to be in great position to claim a victory over their county rival.
There were still four minutes left in the game, though, and turns out that was plenty of time for Callaway to rally, and for LaGrange to let a double-digit lead slip away.
After going up 65-54 with 4:18 remaining, the Grangers only scored three points the rest of the way, and the Cavaliers rallied for a 73-68 victory.
After playing a certain way to go up by 11, the Grangers were unable to slow the pace and milk the big lead they’d built.
“When it really got thick, we just couldn’t slow it down to control the tempo,” LaGrange head coach Mike Pauley said. “We never made them foul us. When we needed to be in the one-and-one, we weren’t because we never made them foul us.”
For much of the second half, the Grangers looked unstoppable.
They were up 29-26 at the half, and they exploded for 25 points in the third period to take a 54-44 lead into the final quarter.
After going up by 12 early in the fourth period, the lead was whittled down to six with five minutes remaining, but a 3-pointer by Laperion Perry and a basket by Walter Shelton gave the Grangers a 65-54 cushion with 4:18 showing on the clock.
“We were getting by them just about when we wanted to,” Pauley said. “The problem is, sometimes you have to decide when to slow down, when you’re in control of the game.”
Control of the game quickly began shifting in Callaway’s direction, and LaGrange was unable to stem the tide.
In the final four minutes, LaGrange’s only points came on a free throw by Derieko Smith and a basket from Perry with 14 seconds remaining.
After Perry’s basket, the Grangers got a turnover, but a potential game-tying 3-pointer went awry.
Callaway’s Terry Godwin then made two free throws on the other end to salt the game away.
“When it came time for us to finish a play, we couldn’t quite finish it,” Pauley said. “When it came time to finish a play, they finished a play. That was the difference right there.”
On a team with so many young players, Pauley felt it was a learning experience.
“There were some things to work on, just clock management, time management, possession management, things that we were trying to get the kids to do,” Pauley said.
Perry, a freshman, had big game with 21 points and four 3-pointers, with 16 of those points coming in the second half.
Shelton added 17 points, and he had 13 points in the second half.
Smith, who had three 3-pointers, added 15 points.
“I felt like nobody quit,” Pauley said. “I don’t know how many leads there were. It was back-and-forth. The atmosphere was fantastic. This was great for the school.”
In the end, it came down to a crucial stretch late in the game.
“We had a couple of possessions there I wish we could take back,” Pauley said. “We’ll go back and study the film and see if there’s anything we can do to help these guys get a handle on that.”