Seniors shine for Grangers
By Kevin Eckleberry
LAGRANGE – It’s their final go-around.
The LaGrange High basketball team is a senior-laden one, and those players have, at the most, three more games to play together, beginning with today’s quarterfinal matchup with Henry County in the Class AAAA state tournament.
There are eight seniors on the team, and seven of them occupy key roles on the team either by starting or playing significant minutes off the bench.
The eighth senior, Jalen Wilson, has been unable to play this season because of an injury.
The seniors have been a part of one of the best three-year stretches in the history of the program.
The Grangers have a combined record of 72-18 the past three seasons, and they’ve won three consecutive region championships and have made it at least as far as the second round of the state tournament in each of those years.
“We’ve been close since the ninth grade,” said one of those seniors, guard Jarious Freeman. “We’ve been playing with each other for so long. We all know what each other can do.”
Among the seniors is senior LaPerion Perry, a senior guard who scored 32 points in last week’s second-round win over Richmond Academy.
Fellow senior guard Gabe Duckett is one of the team’s top defenders and is an effective scorer as he showed against Richmond Academy when he scored 12 points.
Seniors Bryan Fanning and Kenan Gray give the Grangers a formidable one-two combination inside, and Quez Jackson, Freeman and D.J. Cooley are effective players off the bench.
Each one of those seniors has been critical to the Grangers’ success this season.
That includes Freeman, a 5-foot-6 guard who does a lot of the ball-handling when he’s on the floor while providing a potent outside shooting touch.
Perry is the top scorer, but the Grangers are at their best when they’re getting offensive contributions from a lot of different players.
“You have to step up,” Freeman said. “Most teams try to take him away, because he’s the scorer. Other people have to step up, and hit open shots when they come.”
Even if a player doesn’t score, though, he can still make a contribution, and that’s the case even if he’s not on the floor.
“When you’re not playing, you keep everybody going on the bench,” Cooley said. “That’s what I love to do.”
If the Grangers win today, those seniors will make their first appearance in the final four.
Two years ago, LaGrange lost to Allatoona 47-45 in the Class AAAAA quarterfinals.
“I made it to the elite eight our 10th-grade year,” Perry said. “We came up short by two. We didn’t make it this far last year. We’re trying to go all the way this year, get the ring.”