First-place showdown for LaGrange
By Kevin Eckleberry
They’re ready for the challenge.
With Tuesday’s 40-32 victory over rival Troup, the LaGrange Lady Grangers moved to 4-0 in Region 5-AAAA.
There is one other unbeaten team in the region, Sandy Creek (3-0), and it will be at LaGrange today for a first-place showdown.
It’ll be the first time the two teams have played since the region-championship game last season that was also at LaGrange.
Sandy Creek won that game 62-45, and it went on to reach the semifinals of the state tournament before falling to Columbus.
Many of the same players who helped Sandy Creek nearly win a state title are back, so it’ll be a big-time challenge for LaGrange.
“They’re the favorite, they’re the defending champs, they’re undefeated in the region,” LaGrange head coach Stephen Tuck said of Sandy Creek. “But I think our girls are looking forward to the challenge. They’re eager to play them again.
The first game we played them at home (last season), we were up at the half and lost. In the region-championship game, we were up at the half and ended up losing. They know and understand we can play with them.”
The Lady Grangers took their lumps against their non-region opponents as they played without senior guard Aryan Dozier for nearly three weeks, but they’re rolling along now.
After opening region play with an overtime win over Central-Carroll, LaGrange beat Cedartown, Cartersville and Troup in succession.
It helps that the Lady Grangers are at full strength now.
Before the region opener, Dozier and fellow senior guard Chnaireia Strozier had only played three full games together.
For each of the four region games, LaGrange has had its full complement of players.
In the win over Troup, it was Strozier leading the way with 21 points, while Dozier scored 11 points.
Strozier was 6-of-6 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter as LaGrange pulled away after leading by three through three periods.
With Strozier and Dozier both missing time earlier in the season, some other players got more playing time than originally anticipated.
Sophomore guards Kamelah Kelley and Chaquave’ayr Robinson both got significant playing time while LaGrange was short-handed.
“My sophomore guards are really coming along,” Tuck said. “There was a time when we were without Mo (Strozier) and we were without Fruit (Dozier).”
In the win over Troup, Tuck was able to give both of the senior guards significant time on the bench because he was confident in the other players.
“I think that’s part of the reason we were able to finish so strong against Troup,” Tuck said.
LaGrange will reach the halfway point of the region schedule on Saturday with a game at Chapel Hill.
In other girls’ basketball this weekend, the Troup Lady Tigers will look to get on track after dropping back-to-back games to Sandy Creek and LaGrange.
In both games, Troup’s chances were hurt by a difficult fourth quarter where points were hard to come by.
Troup was held scoreless in the fourth quarter of a 40-30 loss to Sandy Creek, and it followed that up with the 40-32 setback against LaGrange.
The game was tied late in the third quarter, but LaGrange went on a 9-0 run to build a 34-25 lead with 2:38 to play.
After falling behind by 10, Troup got within six on a Kiya Fulton 3-pointer with 45 seconds left, but LaGrange held on for the win.
Troup, which is 1-2 the region, will be at home twice this weekend.
Troup faces Cedartown today before ending the weekend against Central-Carroll on Saturday.
Also today, the Callaway Lady Cavaliers will look to maintain their spot atop the Region 5-AA standings with a road win over Spencer.
Callaway improved to 3-0 in the region with a 69-29 home win over Jordan on Tuesday.
Callaway steps out of the region for a home game against Greenville on Saturday.
In private-school basketball, LaGrange Academy and Lafayette Christian are both at home today.
LaGrange Academy hosts Furtah Prep, and Lafayette Christian plays Harvester Christian.