The LaGrange Grangers were hoping to play for a tournament championship on their home floor.
They took a big step toward achieving that goal with a win over W.D. Mohammed on Friday, but they still needed a win over Opelika on Saturday to reach the title game of the LaGrange Toyota Basketball Classic.
The Grangers held the lead in the fourth quarter with less than five minutes remaining, but the Bulldogs responded with a 9-0 run, and they held on for a 61-57 victory.
Opelika will take on Rockdale County in today’s championship game, while LaGrange will face Valley for third place.
“I thought we controlled the ball. We were able to get shots that we wanted. That was a good thing,” LaGrange head coach Mike Pauley said. “We had our chance. We had our chance to win.”
In the end, the Grangers were done in by a stretch of about three minutes where they were outscored 9-0.
LaGrange took its final lead of the game with 4:43 remaining on a LaPerion Perry free throw.
Aldreecus Wilson then hit a 3-pointer with 4:30 remaining to give the Bulldogs a 47-45 lead, and they didn’t trail again.
Kyle Fourtenbary made back-to-back baskets after pulling down offensive rebounds to give Opelika a 53-45 lead with 1:40 remaining.
“I really thought we were going to be able to take that game the way we were playing,” Pauley said. “All the sudden, we just lost control.”
The Grangers weren’t done, though.
Baskets by Walter Shelton and Perry cut Opelika’s lead to 53-49 with 57 seconds left.
With 17 seconds remaining, LaGrange got as close as two when Perry made a 3-pointer, but A.J. Butler made two clutch free throws for Opelika with 11 seconds left to make it a 58-54 game.
After the Bulldogs went ahead by five, Derieko Smith connected on a 3-pointer with four seconds left, and LaGrange was within two.
Malcolm Buggs then clinched the victory for Opelika with a pair of free throws, accounting for the four-point margin of victory.
“Down the stretch, they hit their free throws,” Pauley said. “They missed one down the stretch.”
The Grangers led 13-11 after the first quarter, and they were up 32-29 at the half.
The Grangers led by as many as six points in the third period, but the Bulldogs rallied to take a 42-40 lead on a Jarvis Johnson 3-pointer.
Smith scored for LaGrange with 32 seconds left to tie it, and it was a 42-42 game heading into the final period.
After falling behind by two early in the fourth period, LaGrange scored the next three points to take the lead before Opelika reclaimed the lead, this time for good.
Smith led the Grangers with 16 points, and Danterrious Bray added 12 points.
Perry scored 11 points, with eight of those points coming in the fourth quarter.
Pernell Vickerstaff led Opelika with 22 points, and Wilson scored 12 points.