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LaGrange earns shot at the title

By James Simpson II

james.simpson@lagrangenews.com

LAGRANGE – In a Region 5-AAAA tournament semifinal between cross-town rivals, the LaGrange Grangers slipped past the visiting Troup Tigers 56-46 on Friday night.

The Grangers improved to 23-3 while getting their third victory of the season over the Tigers, and they’ll play for their third straight region championship today against the Sandy Creek Patriots at 7:30 p.m.

Sandy Creek beat Cartersville earlier to reach the title game.

Troup will play Cartersville at 4:30 p.m. in the third-place game.

“When you get into playoff time, you don’t ask questions, you’re just happy to get out of there with a W,” LaGrange head coach Mark Veal said. “Playing your cross-town rival for the third time this year, trying to beat them three times is hard on any team. You see it in college basketball when you play a team multiple times and try to beat them, it can be difficult. I’m just glad we got a win tonight.”

Both teams started off slow offensively, but LaGrange’s aggressive pressure defense rattled Troup late in the first quarter, and the home team had a 14-6 lead by the end of the period.

LaGrange’s full-court pressure continued to pay dividends as senior guard LaPerion Perry created a couple of steals that led to quick outlet passes for layups that pushed the LaGrange lead to 18-8 midway through the second quarter.

Perry, who scored a game-high 21 points, made three consecutive baskets near the end of the first half to boost the Grangers’ lead to 32-22.

Troup’s Jarrious Jefferson also heated up in the second quarter, scoring seven of his 14 points to help Troup stay within shouting distance.

Troup continued to hang tough in the third quarter, and LaGrange’s lead was 43-36 heading to the final period.

Things got interesting in the final quarter.

LaGrange forced two turnovers that led to two easy layups to increase their lead to 11, but the Tigers didn’t go away.

Late three-pointers by Montez Crowe and Jefferson trimmed the Grangers’ lead to 49-44 with four minutes left.

It was a three-point game when Bryan Fanning scored on a put-back, and LaGrange pulled away and knocked down some free throws down the stretch to secure the 10-point win.

Jefferson made a pair of 3-pointers and led Troup with 14 points, and Crowe and King Mwikuta were in double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Perry was the only Granger in double figures with 21 points, but eight players scored.

Bo Russell had eight points, and Fanning and Quez Jackson each scored seven points.

LaGrange and Sandy Creek split their two regular-season games, with each team winning on its home floor.

“I like our chances tomorrow,” said Veal. “I think Sandy Creek is a very, very good team. They’ve got size. They’ve got shooters. We split with them this season. We beat them here. We played good up there for a half. Hopefully there’s something we can adjust too and we’ll be ready for them.”