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Lady Grangers go unbeaten in region play

By Kevin Eckleberry

kevin.eckleberry@lagrangenews.com

Perfection achieved.

The LaGrange Lady Grangers handled Central-Carroll 52-32 on Wednesday in their regular-season finale to finish with an unbeaten Region 5-AAAA record.

LaGrange (16-9 overall), which posted a 12-0 region record, is off until Feb. 8 when it will host the semifinals of the region tournament.

If LaGrange wins that game, it would be at home again on Feb. 10 for the region-championship game.

In Wednesday’s game, senior guards Aryan Dozier and Chnaireia Strozier combined for all but nine of LaGrange’s points.

Dozier led the way with 22 points while going 6-of-6 from the free-throw line, and Strozier added 19 points.

The Lady Grangers ended 2017 with five consecutive losses while playing short-handed while Dozier was out with an illness, but they haven’t dropped a game since the new year began.

Following the win over Central, LaGrange head coach Stephen Tuck told the players how proud he was of what they accomplished.

“I told them after the game, I don’t want to harp on what y’all did wrong today,” Tuck said. “I’m just proud of y’all. To achieve what you accomplished, it’s a testament to how hard you worked in the offseason, and it’s a testament to what we learned playing a tough non-region schedule, and learning and not being discouraged by it. When January hit, it all kind of came together.”

Through the first month of the season, the full team was rarely on the court.

Heading into the region schedule, in fact, Strozier and Dozier had only played three full games together.

Combine that with a challenging non-region schedule, it’s no surprise the Lady Grangers took their lumps in the early going.  Tuck believes the adversity the players faced during those early games has made them stronger.

“I tell them all the time, there’s nothing you haven’t seen,” Tuck said. “ We’ve seen bigs. We’ve seen guards that can go. We’ve seen talented offenses, we’ve seen tough defenses. We’ve handled situations without Fruit (Dozier). We’ve handled situations without Mo (Strozier). So there’s nothing they haven’t seen. Anything that happens at this point and time they should be OK with.”

In Wednesday’s game, LaGrange put it away in the first half.

It was a five-point game early in the second quarter when LaGrange took control.

With Dozier hitting a pair of 3-pointers and scoring eight points, LaGrange finished the second quarter on a 14-2 run to build a 30-13 lead at the break.

Central got as close as 14 early in the fourth quarter, but a Katelyn Hill basket started a 6-0 run that gave LaGrange a 20-point cushion.

LaGrange went up by as many as 23 points before winning by 19.

LaGrange will have a week off before returning to the court for the region tournament.

The Lady Grangers know they’re headed to state regardless of what happens next week, but if they win the region tournament, they’d be at home for two and possibly three games at state as long as they keep winning.

“If you finish first or second, you’re guaranteed one home game (at state),” Tuck said. “But I want more than that, so we’ve got to keep winning. If we win the region tournament, that’s two home games, with a possibility of a third. You’ve got to continue to want to play here. It’s a great atmosphere