The Grangers headed into the final quarter down by just two points, but they went six minutes without scoring a point, allowing the Opelika Bulldogs to seize a 48-39 lead.
The Grangers finally found their scoring touch, though, and they fought back to tie the game with 14 seconds left.
Unfortunately for the home team, the Bulldogs hit the game’s last shot, with Kenneth Keith’s short jumper with four seconds left providing the winning margin.
Kwame Brown’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was just off-target, allowing Opelika to walk away with a 55-53 victory in the third-place game of the LaGrange Toyota Basketball Classic.
The Grangers, who improved to 9-0 with an opening-round win over Valley on Friday, fell to 9-2 with back-to-back close losses.
LaGrange lost to W.D. Mohammed 64-57 on Friday for their first loss of the season.
While disappointed not to come away with the tournament crown, LaGrange head coach Mike Pauley was pleased to see his team involved in three competitive ballgames heading into the start of region play on Friday.
“Look, when we came into our tournament, we didn’t think we’d go 1-2,” Pauley said. “But that aside, we really had three good games. These games were good for us.”
Justyn Olson led the Grangers with 22 points, and Brown chipped in with 10 points.
Jarvis Johnson led Opelika with 14 points.
The Bulldogs were up 32-27 at the half, but the Grangers played a strong third period and were within two, 41-39, heading into the final period.
That’s when the Grangers went ice cold.
They couldn’t make anything from the field, and they missed some crucial free throws as well that allowed the Bulldogs to extend their lead.
“We just couldn’t get something going,” Pauley said.
Finally, with exactly two minutes left, the Grangers snapped out of it when Dee Smith hit a 3-pointer to cut Opelika’s lead to 48-42.
After the Bulldogs went back up by eight, the Grangers went on an 11-3 run to pull even at 53-53.
Olson scored nine of those final 11 points, and his jumper with 14 seconds remaining deadlocked the score.
The Bulldogs had plenty of time to work for a good shot, and with time winding down, Keith found himself with an open look, and he made it count.
After some disagreement as to how much time should be on the clock, the Grangers had 3.3 seconds to work with, and they had to go the length of the court with no timeouts.
Brown was a few feet beyond the 3-point line when he put his shot up, and it barely missed.
LaGrange will open Region 5-AAA play on Friday against Shaw at home.