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Grangers ready for state road test

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

He saved his best for last.

LaGrange High senior D.J. Burks has been a solid player over the years, but he’s taken the next step this season.

Burks has been one of LaGrange’s most consistent offensive players all season, raining down 3-pointers while also finding his way to the basket with regularity.

Burks and his teammates will be at Denmark on Saturday for the opening round of the Class AAAA state tournament, with tip-off set for 6 p.m.

Leading the way are a group of seniors that includes Burks, Kindae Maddox, Nafis Carston and Blake Miles.

LaGrange didn’t make it to state last season after losing to Cartersville in the first round of the region tournament, so the players are happy to be back on the big stage this year.

“The goal from the start of the season was to make state,” Burks said. “I didn’t get to make state last year, so this is my senior year, and I had to make state.”

Burks has done his part to help the Grangers get there.

Burks is LaGrange’s leading scorer this season, and he’s had numerous games where he scored more than 20 points.

Burks’ good work didn’t go unrecognized as he was one of five players who earned a first-team selection to the all-region team.

“It was a big achievement,” Burks said. “I’m blessed. I’m going to keep working. I love it. I’m excited about it.”

Burks plays alongside sophomore guard Kobe Jones in the back-court, and those two have worked well together.

Jones was a second-team selection on the all-region team.

“We’ve had good guard play this year, and a lot of it is the progress that D.J. has made from last year to this year,” said LaGrange head coach Veal said. “Obviously him having Kobe helps him. It relieves some of the ball-handling duties for him. D.J. has made a lot of plays for us this year, particularly on the offensive end. He’s really progressed. I know his goal is to finish this year strong, and he wants to play college ball. We’re hoping that’s a reality.”

Veal added that “all the seniors have had their moments this year and done something productive to help us win.”

Junior post player Javon Brown has had a terrific season as well, and freshman Garrett Jacobsen has played a lot of minutes.

The Grangers started the season 17-0 before hitting a speed bump and losing nine of their past 11 games, but the slate is wiped clean now.

In the end, the Grangers qualified for the state tournament, something they were unable to do last season.

“A lot of teams that are really good aren’t here, so we’re fortunate to be back at state,” Veal said. “Last year was the first time we’ve missed in a while, and that just goes to the hard work of some of the players we’ve had here in the past. We’re lucky to be a part of it each year.”

LAGRANGE VS. DENMARK

WHAT: First round of Class AAAA boys state tournament

WHEN: Saturday, 6 p.m.

WHERE: Denmark

HOW THEY GOT HERE: LaGrange (19-9) finished fourth in Region 5-AAAA; Denmark (22-5) finished first in Region 7-AAAA

UP NEXT: The winner will play Burke County or Dougherty in the second round