The LaGrange Grangers had watched their six-point lead disappear late in Tuesday’s game against the Callaway Cavaliers, but they kept their heads about them and did what they needed to down the stretch to pull off a 60-53 victory before a packed house at LaGrange High’s gym.
After the Cavaliers pulled even with six straight points, all on Patrick Strickland baskets, the Grangers finished the game on a 7-0 run to improve to 8-0 and beat Callaway for the second time in a little more than a week.
Both games have been close, and on both occasions it was LaGrange making the big plays in the final minutes.
Justyn Olson, who led the Grangers with 20 points, said the players didn’t let Callaway’s late run phase them.
“Every team is going to have their run, especially a county rival like that. It’s a game of runs,” Olson said. “We didn’t panic, and that was the main thing, and then we had our run late in the game.”
The Grangers went up 53-47 when Kwame Brown made a pair of free throws with 4:18 remaining.
Strickland, who hadn’t scored a point in the game, then caught fire and made three consecutive baskets, including a reverse lay-in with 1:40 remaining that tied it at 53-53.
LaGrange called timeout to regroup.
“We called that timeout, and might should have called it a possession before,” LaGrange head coach Mike Pauley said. “It ended up working finally.”
The Grangers took the lead with 1:10 remaining when Brown scored after coming up with a steal.
With 36 seconds left, Olson made a pair of free throws to push the lead to 57-53.
Drew Moody padded the lead with two more free throws with 17 seconds left, and the Grangers kept the ball because Callaway was called for an intentional foul.
Olson capped the scoring with one free throw with 14 seconds remaining.
The Cavaliers were held scoreless after Strickland’s final basket with 1:40 left.
“Throughout the game, we played good defense except when they came back,” Olson said. “We had to get back to those habits. We did that.”
The game was close throughout.
The Grangers were up 15-14 after the first quarter, and they extended that lead to 33-27 at the half.
Callaway rallied in the third period and actually went up 41-37 with 2:38 showing on the clock after a three-point play by Tyrell Tigner, who led all scorers with 25 points.
Olson converted a three-point play of his own with 57 seconds left to get the Grangers even at 43-43, and Brown’s two free throws with four seconds remaining put the home team on top 45-43.
The Grangers scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to go up 49-43 to cap a 9-0 run, and they were still ahead by six when Strickland went on his personal 6-0 run.
In the end, though, LaGrange was the team with the right answers.
“It was a lot of fun. Everybody played hard,” Pauley said. “It was a good ballgame.”
While Olson paced the Grangers with 20 points, Moody added 15 points and played tough in the paint, pulling in numerous rebounds.
Brown chipped in with 10 points.
Don Leak didn’t score, but Pauley said he made a big contribution inside.
“I’ll tell you who came in big in the second half was Don,” Pauley said. “Don had three or four huge rebounds, several outlets, a big block.”
LaGrange will be off until next Thursday when it begins play in the LaGrange-Toyota Holiday Classic.
Callaway will be at home Friday against Troup and Saturday against Lanett (Ala.).