Cougars get dramatic win

Published 2:40 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

With senior Ross Clifton leading the way, the Lafayette Christian School Cougars opened a new season with a hard-earned 65-62 home win over Oak Mountain on Monday.

Clifton led the Cougars with 22 points, and his steal and subsequent three-point play with 1:36 remaining gave the home team a seven-point lead.

Oak Mountain hung tough and twice had the ball down by just three points, but Landon Whitley and Sam Shepherd both came up with steals in the closing moments to help the Cougars prevail.

Lafayette Christian head coach Jarred Pike will be relying on Clifton to be the team leader this season, and the senior wore that role like a glove in Monday’s win.

“However he goes, that’s how we’re going to go,” Pike said. “He’s been playing with us since the sixth grade, and this is his senior year. He’s obviously the best player we’ve got, so if he doesn’t play well, we’re not going to play well. Everybody feeds off of what he does.”

Early in the fourth quarter, it looked like the Cougars might enjoy a suspense-free night.

The Cougars led 52-41 after three quarters, but the Warriors hung tough and made a game of it.

“We were up 14, and they kept coming back, and we couldn’t make free throws,” Pike said.

The Warriors were within three and had a chance to pull even with a 3-pointer when Clifton intercepted a pass, and he took off down the court.

Clifton went hard to the basket and scored while being fouled, and he made the free throw to complete the three-point play and give the Cougars a 62-55 lead.

Clifton made two more free throws with 1:22 left, and the Cougars had a seemingly comfortable 64-55 lead.

The Cougars missed six consecutive free throws after that, though, and the Warriors got back within three with 14 seconds left.

Twice the Warriors got the ball back still down by just three, but the steals by Whitley and Shephard sealed it.

Shephard’s steal came as time expired, and the players celebrated the narrow win.

Cameron Gisler had a big day for the Cougars with 18 points, and he made five 3-pointers, with three of them coming in the first quarter.

OJ Parks added 11 points for the Cougars, and Matt Brooks made two 3-pointers and scored six points.

With Gisler getting hot early, the Cougars surged to a 23-17 lead after the first quarter, and they were ahead 34-25 at the half and 52-41 through three quarters.

In Monday’s girls’ game, Lafayette Christian opened the season with a 49-24 loss to Oak Mountain.

“For the most part, the girls played really, really well,” Lafayette Christian head coach Rene Gomez said. “At the end, they got some cheap baskets to push the lead up. We were down 15 to 20 points throughout the game, but we were always within striking distance. We were organized, we executed well, we were able to handle pressure.”

Senior Abbey Hudson, who Gomez will be counting on to lead the way this season, made four 3-pointers and scored 12 points.

“She had a phenomenal game,” Gomez said. “She played really, really tough.”

Gomez said with Julia Haynes at point guard, Hudson should be able to get some better looks from outside.

“She had time to set up and take the shot, and was able to bury four (3-pointers),” Gomez said.

Hana Stevens added seven points and seven rebounds.

“She had some good interior post play,” Gomez said.

Another standout was Harmany McCord, who had three steals and five rebounds.

“She played great defense and hustled and dived on loose balls,” Gomez said.

Emily Ward made two 3-pointers and scored six points.

“We talked about working hard every played and we needed to attack the glass,” Gomez said. “I felt like we did that. Hopefully we can build from this and get some more folks involved on offense.”

Lafayette Christian’s boys’ team will be back home today against Trinity (Ala.), with tip-off set for 6 p.m.

On Thursday, both Lafayette Christian teams will be on the court at LaGrange Academy.