The LaGrange Grangers pushed one of the state’s best teams to the limit Saturday afternoon.
Facing the Alexander Cougars in their regular-season finale, the Grangers rallied from a nine-point deficit in the fourth period to get as close as three points in the closing moments before falling 64-59.
It wasn’t a win, but it was a terrific performance by LaGrange as it heads into the Region 5-AAAA tournament.
The Grangers (12-13 overall) finished 6-8 in the region to finish fifth, and they’ll host eighth-seeded Columbus at 7:30 p.m. today in the first round of the region tournament.
Alexander (21-3), which went 14-0 in region play, has a bye into the tournament semifinals on Friday.
“I’m not glad we lost, and not accepting of the loss in terms of that, but we took the number three team in the state all the way to the buzzer,” LaGrange coach Mike Pauley said. “We have to feel pretty good about that going into next week. That’s what we’re going to go in there and say (to the players). I thought everybody battled well. I thought everybody on our team competed well.”
The LaGrange girls’ team also lost a close one on Saturday, with Alexander escaping with a 47-45 victory.
In the boys’ game, the Grangers were down 46-41 through three periods, and Alexander scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to go up 50-41.
The deficit was still nine when Derieko Smith made a 3-pointer with 3:53 remaining to make it a 58-52 game.
Logan Moody scored with 2:15 left to get the Grangers within four.
The Grangers didn’t get any close until Laperion Perry made a 3-pointer with seven seconds left to cut the Cougars’ lead to 62-59.
Alexander’s Mikell Lands made a pair of free throws with four seconds left to clinch it.
Perry led the Grangers with 14 points, and Smith added 13 points.
Kyle Williams scored nine points, with all of those points coming in the second quarter.
In the girls’ game, the Lady Grangers did a lot of things right, but they had a tough time of it from the free-throw line, making just 8-of-23 attempts.
Alexander’s percentage wasn’t great, but it made 17-of-30 free-throw attempts.
Cheteyah Tucker led LaGrange with 12 points, and Antoinesha Dozier and Andrea Heflin each scored nine points.
The Lady Grangers finished the regular season at 7-17 overall, and 4-10 in the region.
LaGrange will face Shaw in the opening round of the Region 5-AAAA tournament today at Alexander.
Tip time is 6 p.m.