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Middle-school teams face off

By Kevin Eckleberry

kevin.eckleberry@lagrangenews.com

The Gardner Newman Mustangs, after winning a double-overtime thriller against Callaway Middle School on Thursday, will play for a championship today.

Gardner Newman, which outlasted Callaway 30-28, will play Long Cane Middle School at 5:30 p.m. today with a league championship on the line.

On the girls’ side, Callaway handled Gardner Newman 37-21 on Thursday to earn its spot in the title game.

Callaway’s opponent will be Long Cane, with tip-off set for 4:30 p.m.

Both championship games will be played at Long Cane.

In Thursday’s boys’ game, Callaway had a five-point lead with a little more than two minutes remaining when Gardner Newman made its move.

After Montavious Martin hit a free throw to make it a four-point game, Qua Coverson scored four straight points to deadlock the score.

After Coverson scored with 20 seconds left to tie it, Gardner Newman got the ball back on a jump ball.

Callaway forced a turnover with five seconds left, and after a shot at the buzzer didn’t fall, it was on to overtime tied 27-27.

Neither team scored in the first overtime, so the teams returned to the court for a second three-minute overtime period.

Kiian Hodnett ended the scoring drought with a pair of free throws with 2:41 remaining to give Gardner Newman a two-point lead.

Callaway’s Nate Lee made a free throw with two minutes left to make it a one-point game, and Martin drained a free throw with 37 seconds left to put Gardner Newman back up by two.

After a Gardner Newman turnover, Callaway took possession with 11 seconds left with an opportunity to tie it or force overtime.

A potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer was off-target, though, and the Mustangs celebrated the hard-earned win.

“I’m 100 percent proud of them,” Gardner Newman head coach John Manning said. “We’ve battled a lot of things this year, losing guys, and injuries. The guys have come together when it counted, and now we’ve got a chance tomorrow.”

Callaway led 9-8 after the first period, but Gardner Newman dominated the second quarter to take a 15-10 lead at the half.

Callaway came charging back in the third quarter, and the game was tied 18-18 heading to the final period.

When Quenderious Redding made a 3-pointer with 2:30 to play, Callaway had a 27-22 lead, but Gardner Newman rallied to tie it and force overtime.

Martin led Gardner Newman in scoring with 11 points, and Coverson added six points, all in the fourth quarter.

Hodnett and Tygil Hixson added four points apiece.

For Callaway, Redding made three 3-pointers and scored nine points, and Jaquavious Whitfield and Cameron Smith added eight points apiece.

In Thursday’s girls’ game, it was a competitive game at the half, with Callaway clinging to a 17-14 lead.

Callaway took over in the third quarter, outscoring Gardner Newman 10-4 to take a 27-18 lead into the final period.

Cameron Stargell had the hot hand in the third quarter, scoring six of Callaway’s 10 points.

Callaway continued to pull away in the second half to win by 16 points.

“We play better in the second half,” Callaway head coach Jimmy Askew said. “Sometimes it takes us a little while to get going. Once we get going, we do all right.”

Niakoe Burks led Callaway with 15 points, Stargell scored 10 points, and Lacey Thomas added seven points.

For Gardner Newman, Holly Lynn led the way with eight points, and Nina Brooks scored six points.

After beating one of its rivals on Thursday, Callaway will look for another big win today against a Long Cane team that has won four consecutive league titles.

“I enjoy the competition, and they all know each other,” Askew said. “It’s a rival game when you play Gardner Newman or Long Cane. We go out and try to have fun with it, and play hard. And they’ll be playing each other all through high school.”

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