Grangers head into new year with win

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 31, 2015

Team goes 2-1 in LaGrange Toyota Basketball Classic

By Kevin Eckleberry

Derieko Smith scored 28 points to lead LaGrange to a 68-67 overtime win over Lithia Springs. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News Smith scored 28 points to lead LaGrange to a 68-67 overtime win over Lithia Springs. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News

LAGRANGE – It was a close call, but the LaGrange Grangers closed their tournament stay in style.

Facing Lithia Springs on the final day of the LaGrange Toyota Basketball Classic, LaGrange was pushed to overtime, but it found a way to secure a 68-67 victory.

The Grangers finished the tournament with a 2-1 record, and they improved to 11-2 heading into the start of Region 1-AAAAA play next week.

Lithia Springs hit a shot at the close of regulation to pull even, and LaGrange was able to hang on for the one-point win in overtime.

Senior Derieko Smith had a big game for the Grangers with 28 points, and Bryan Fanning had 10 points.

The Grangers started slowly, managing just four points in the first period, but they recovered and avoided their first losing streak of the season.

The Grangers’ hopes of winning the tournament title were dashed with a loss to the Upson-Lee Knights on Tuesday, and head coach Mark Veal thought a lack of motivation might be a problem against Lithia Springs.

“You want to play the 7:30 game (for the championship), and now you’ve got to play a game that’s basically meaningless,” Veal said. “You’re playing for pride, and to get better.”

The Grangers couldn’t get anything going early, and they were facing a 10-4 deficit after the first quarter.

“We started off really sluggish and were down like 15-4 at one point,” Veal said. “There was a time where it looked like it was going to get out of hand big-time.”

The Grangers picked up the pace in the second period, and by the half they were ahead 22-21.

Both teams found their scoring touch in the second half, and it remained close all the way to the end.

Smith scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, and he did a lot of damage from the free-throw line, making 13 of 16 attempts for the game.

Fanning, who was scoreless through the first three quarters, scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Mike Hardy added eight points for the Grangers, and Alex Dantzler scored seven points.

James Williams of Lithia Springs led all scorers with 30 points, and he had 19 points in the second half.

LaGrange will begin its region schedule with a home game against Hardaway on Tuesday.

Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports