Granger rally falls just short

Published 10:30 am Thursday, November 23, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

NEWNAN – They made it interesting.

Trailing by 25 points at one point in the third quarter of Tuesday’s game against Newnan, the LaGrange Grangers staged a furious rally to get as close as one in the final moments.

The Grangers had chances late to pull even or take the lead, but it was the Cougars hanging on for a 61-60 win.

It was the season-opener for the Grangers, and head coach Mark Veal was proud of the way his players charged from way behind to make a game of it.

“We showed some fight, and showed that we’re never going to quit,” Veal said. “It was pretty impressive how we came back, and we had a chance to win.”

It’s a new-look squad, with most of the players from last season’s team that won a region championship and reached the quarterfinals of the state tournament having graduated.

Gone is dynamic guard LaPerion Perry, as well as a pair of imposing players in Kenan Gray and Bryan Fanning.

With an almost entirely new lineup, the Grangers will be looking for different ways to win this season.

“We’re a very coachable group,” Veal said. “We’re going to play hard, and fans will like watching us play. We’re not going to have anybody like LaPerion, or (Derieko Smith). We won’t have towering size inside like we’ve had the past few years. But we’re going to come out and play hard.”

In Tuesday’s game, Newnan was ahead 10-3 after the first quarter, and 23-7 at the half.

The Cougars led 34-9 in the third quarter, but the Grangers hung tough and cut the deficit to 43-24 heading to the final period.

The Grangers started the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run, and they continued to cut into the Cougars’ lead.

When Jordan Ogletree converted a three-point play with less than 10 seconds left, the Grangers were within one.

The Grangers got the ball back and had a chance to take the lead, but they missed two free throws, and time ran out as the teams fought for the ball following the second miss.

“Defensively, I thought we played pretty good all game,” Veal said. “Early on, we turned it over, and we couldn’t do anything right on offense.”

After managing just nine points in the first half, the Grangers scored 51 points in the second half, with 36 of those points coming in the fourth period.

“We just started pressuring, and we got a few guys that got hot,” Veal said. “Daz Williams got hot from the perimeter, and we scored 36 points in the fourth quarter. We just went on a scoring burst.”

Veal said his team’s ability to take charges was also a key to the near comeback.

“One thing that’s been very impressive, I think we took about seven charges during the game,” Veal said. “We don’t really have shot-blockers. To stand there and take charges, that’s very beneficial for us.”

Williams led LaGrange with 19 points, and Bo Russell scored 16 points.

LaGrange will play its home opener on Tuesday against Northside-Columbus.