With the start of region play on the horizon, LaGrange High basketball coach Mike Pauley wants to put his team to the test, to see how his players react against top-notch competition.
He’ll get his wish today.
The Grangers are one of eight teams that will be participating in the LaGrange Toyota Basketball Classic, and for their opening-round game, they’ll take on a W.D. Mohammed team that is expected to be a championship contender in Class A.
W.D. Mohammed has lost just one game this year, and it features a dynamic backcourt tandem that is averaging nearly 50 points per game.
“I’ll be anxious to see how all of our guard play does against those two really good guards,” said LaGrange head coach Mike Pauley, whose team lost to W.D. Mohammed in the semifinals a year ago.
On Saturday, LaGrange will play either Opelika or McIntosh, and it will play one final game on Monday.
“The next three games will set us up for region play,” Pauley said. “We want to make sure that if there are any wrinkles we need to work out, we start working those out.”
The Grangers bring a 4-3 record into the tournament, and they beat Heard County 69-40 in their most recent game.
That win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Grangers, who lost to Newnan by one point, and to Callaway by five points.
The Callaway game was especially tough to take since LaGrange was up by 12 points in the fourth quarter, and by 11 points with less than four minutes to play.
LaPerion Perry, LaGrange’s outstanding freshman guard, had 21 points, including 16 points in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to keep Callaway from earning the come-from-behind, 73-68 win.
Pauley said that game was an important learning tool for a team full of players who are new to varsity basketball.
“After the Callaway game, we watched that film, and for the kids it was eye-opening,” Pauley said. “We had 14 possessions in the fourth quarter. Five of them resulted in turnovers, six of them resulted in layups on the other end for them. Five of them were missed layups. And in all 14 possessions, three of those possessions we had a ball switch. We’re winning, and we don’t have any ball switches. So we run no time off the clock, we make them not work.”
After the tournament is completed, LaGrange will have played 10 games before the start of region play, and that will have given a lot of players a chance to make an impression on Pauley and the other coaches.
“We’re starting to have some other guys come on, too, and compete, which is kind of nice,” Pauley said. “Even though we have a nice team, it’d be nice to have some guys rise up and elevate their game. It’d be good to know who that is now. And even though guys are kind of in a role, those roles can change.”