Grangers rally past Cavaliers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
With a standing-room only crowd hanging on every basket, every rebound, and every play during a thrilling cross-town showdown, the Callaway Cavaliers and LaGrange Grangers put on a show.
Callaway had a nine-point lead early in the third quarter, but with sophomore guard Kobe Jones leading the way, LaGrange rallied for a 75-71 victory in the only game this season between the two rivals.
While LaGrange (9-0) remained unbeaten, it was the season opener for Callaway, which only had a few practices before taking the court on Tuesday.
Jones, Callaway’s outstanding sophomore guard, led his team with 32 points, and he had nine points during the decisive fourth quarter.
“It was the best game I’ve been in in my high-school career,” Jones said.
As for the Grangers’ mindset when they found themselves facing a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter, Jones said he and his teammates had to “just keep fighting, and don’t give up.”
The game was tied when D.J. Burks drove to the basket and scored with 12 seconds left to give LaGrange a 73-71 lead.
After Callaway missed a potential game-tying basket, Javon Brown came down with a rebound and was fouled with one second left.
Brown made both of the free throws to give the Grangers a four-point lead, and the Cavaliers missed a half-court shot at the buzzer that wouldn’t have affected the outcome even if it had fallen.
LaGrange head coach Mark Veal was thrilled to see his team come away with a victory over such a talented opponent.
“They’ve got five or six guys that played really well,” Veal said of the Cavaliers. “They had guys in foul trouble tonight. When they get the dust off and start practicing, they’re going to have a good team for sure. Demetrius (Coleman) played outstanding.”
Callaway will jump into its Region 5-AA schedule on Tuesday with a home game against Heard County.
“I’m proud of the effort. We didn’t play smart, but we played hard,” said Callaway head coach Terry Hayes. “We have to step up our defense. They got too many easy layups.”
Coleman, Callaway’s junior quarterback who along with many of his teammates recently wrapped up a phenomenal football season, scored 22 points, with eight of those points coming in the fourth quarter.
Antinez Blount, a wide receiver who caught a bunch of passes from Coleman during football season, led the Cavaliers with 23 points, with 19 of those points coming in the first half.
Jalin Shephard added nine points, and Javontay Boddie made two 3-pointers and scored six points.
While Jones did much of the scoring for the Grangers, three other players combined for 31 points.
Kindae Maddox had 12 points, Brown scored 10 points, and Burks had nine points.
Blake Miles added six points, including four critical points late in the fourth quarter.
In a back-and-forth first half where both teams were filling up the basket, it was tied 17-17 after the first quarter, and Burks hit a shot in the closing moments of the half to give LaGrange a 42-41 lead.
Jones did a lot of the first-half damage for the Grangers with 23 points, while Blount made four 3-pointers in the second quarter and had 19 points in the opening half.
Callaway built a six-point lead late in the third quarter on a Boddie 3-pointer, but LaGrange went on a 6-0 run.
Blount’s dunk as the third quarter expired gave the Cavaliers a 56-54 lead.
Callaway carried the momentum over into the fourth quarter, scoring seven straight points to go up 63-54 with 7:10 to play.
The Grangers needed a spark, and they got it from Jones, who scored seven consecutive points to get his team with two.
A Jones 3-pointer with 4:13 to play cut Callaway’s lead to 63-61.
The Cavaliers managed to hang onto the lead until Blake Miles scored with 1:30 to play, and the score was deadlocked at 67-67.
With one minute remaining Miles pulled down an offensive rebound and scored again, giving LaGrange a 69-67 lead.
Coleman knocked down two free throws with 50 seconds to play to tie it at 69-69, and Jones’ answered with a basket 14 seconds later to put the Grangers back on top.
Back came Coleman with another bucket to pull the Cavaliers even, but Burks beat the defense down the floor and laid the ball in to put the Grangers on top 73-71.
Following Callaway’s miss, Brown’s two free throws capped the scoring.