Cougars, Warriors play a thriller
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
A late-game charge lifted the Lafayette Christian School Cougars to a dramatic 59-57 win over LaGrange Academy in a cross-town showdown on Tuesday night.
Trailing by 10 points with less than five minutes to play, the Cougars finished the game on a 14-2 run to walk away with a 59-57 home win.
With Riley Hess leading the way, the Warriors went on a 15-5 run of their own to take a 55-45 lead with 4:30 to play.
Hess, a senior guard, scored 11 of his team’s points during that run to give the visiting team a 10-point cushion.
Lafayette Christian head coach David Gisler called a timeout, and he talked to the players about the importance of bearing down on the defensive end.
The Cougars responded by limiting the Warriors to two points the rest of the way.
“I told them in the timeout, we were starting to get lazy defensively,” Gisler said. “We have to pick the defensive pressure up, and keep doing what we’re doing. We got a couple of quick turnovers, and knocked a couple of shots down, which we can do. We’ve got good shooters.
“But it was really our defensive pressure for most of the game that kept us in it, and at the end of the game gave us a chance to get back in it.”
Cameron Gisler and Matt Brooks made 3-pointers to get the Cougars within two, and Conner Grisler converted two free throws with 1:24 to tie it.
The Cougars went on top on a pair of Cameron Gisler free throws with 58 seconds left, and they made that narrow lead stand up.
The Warriors had a handful of chances to either tie the game or take the lead, but they couldn’t make it happen.
It was LaGrange Academy’s first game under new head coach Ken Clinger.
“I told them to just keep your heads up,” Clinger said. “We’re doing a lot of things to get better, and I told them to just trust in me, trust in the program, trust in your teammates. We’re going to be successful. Don’t let this one game define you.”
Cameron Gisler and Brooks led the Warriors with 16 points apiece, Conner Grisler added 11 points, and Sam Marshall scored eight points.
Cameron Gisler, Conner Grisler and Brooks combined for 10 3-pointers, and Clinger said the Cougars’ ability to knock down shots from long distance kept him from relaxing when the Warriors went up by 10.
“I knew they could shoot the ball so well,” Clinger said. “You may have a big lead, but it’s not big enough. They’ll shoot it from anywhere.”
Hess led the Warriors with 22 points, with 17 of those points coming in the second half.
Hess made four 3-pointers in the game, with two of them coming early in the fourth quarter when the Warriors grabbed the lead.
“He caught the fever,” Clinger said. “That’s what we talked about, is we need to find Riley, and they did a good job of finding him.”
In the girls’ game, LaGrange Academy handled Lafayette Christian 35-25.
Kelsey Cotton, the Lady Warriors’ top returning scorer, paced her team with 13 points, and eighth-grader Kayla McBride scored 12 points.
Hana Stevens led Lafayette Christian with 12 points.
It was LaGrange Academy’s debut under new head coach Bethany Howard, a former player at LaGrange College.
“We just have two seniors, so that’s pretty good to know for the future,” Howard said. “It’s good to see their work ethic. I’m excited about it.”