Grangers soar in region showdown
LAGRANGE – The Shaw Raiders are unbeaten in the region no longer.
The Raiders arrived at LaGrange High’s gym on Friday with a 4-0 record in Region 1-AAAAA, and they were coming off a big road win over Carver earlier in the week.
The Raiders met their match Friday night, though.
LaGrange built a 15-point halftime lead, and then withstood a Shaw charge in the second half to claim a 65-58 victory.
The Grangers (14-3 overall), who were coming off a loss at Carver last weekend, improved to 3-1 in the region.
“We brought it tonight,” LaGrange head coach Mark Veal said. “They set the tone early. They gave us their best punch back, and luckily in that fourth quarter we were able to sustain and increase the lead.”
The Raiders rallied and took the lead at one point in the second half, but the Grangers always had an answer.
Shaw made a final push in the game’s closing moments.
In a span of less than a minute, the Raiders scored six straight points to get within three, but the Grangers scored the game’s final four points to earn the seven-point win.
Senior guard Derieko Smith, the Grangers’ leading scorer this season, had 22 points, and senior post player Mike Hardy added 10 points.
Kenan Gray and LaPerion Perry each scored eight points, and eight different LaGrange players got into the scoring column.
With Smith scoring six points in the first quarter, the Grangers surged to an 18-9 lead.
LaGrange continued the momentum in the second period, outscoring Shaw 19-13 to build a 37-22 lead at the break.
The Grangers went a bit cold in the third period, managing just nine points, and the Raiders exploded for 24 points to even things up at 46-46 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Grangers were up by nine points with a little more than a minute remaining when the Raiders got six quick points to make it a 61-58 game with 51 seconds left.
On its ensuing possession, LaGrange managed to run more than 20 seconds off the clock before Perry was fouled, and the junior guard made two critical free throws to give his team a 63-58 lead.
After a Shaw miss, Smith sealed it by making two free throws with 13 seconds remaining.
Veal said the team put a lot of effort into preparing for Shaw, and he felt that hard work paid dividends.
“We put a lot into it,” Veal said. “We had three practices after we played the Carver game. The kids worked hard, and I think we got better physically and mentally. You want to see that transfer over to a game, and have it result in a win.”
Veal said he wasn’t a bit surprised to see Shaw make a run in the second half.
“We got the big lead a couple of times, and they came back and took the lead,” Veal said. “Shaw’s a physical team. They went down and won at Carver. A place where we couldn’t win, they did. Itwas nice to get the win. I felt we played pretty well tonight.”
In Friday’s girls’ game, LaGrange held off Shaw 69-64.
Shania Woodward had a huge game for the Lady Grangers with 31 points, and she had 12 points in the third period.
Aryan Dozier scored 20 points and made a pair of 3-pointers, and Chnaireia Strozier scored 12 points.
The Lady Grangers surged to a 17-4 lead after the first period, and they led 33-19 at the half.
In the third period, Shaw came storming back, scoring 25 points to cut LaGrange’s lead to 51-48.
With Woodard capping her big night with six points in the fourth quarter, LaGrange secured the region win.
OF NOTE: For details on LaGrange’s games against Harris County on Saturday, check out Monday’s print edition and www.lagrangenews.com
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports