Roundball hysteria has hit LaGrange High School.
The Grangers, the winners of 26 games, scored their biggest coup of the season on Thursday night with a Sweet 16 State Tournament victory over the Academy of Richmond County. LaGrange High kept punching until scoring an 85-74 knockout against the boys from Augusta.
After the game, a melee ensued as the Granger fans stormed the court. There was a steady dose of high fiving, back slapping, hugging and jawing. It was virtually a scene from the move “Hoosiers.”
Only this current movie is called “Grangers.”
In the middle of the mob scene in the LaGrange High gym was one of the heroes of the evening, Granger junior guard Bo Russell. He was getting bombarded by fans. This was hero worship at its best, Granger style.
But everything reverted back to the game, which was hard-core from the opening whistle to the final shot.
“It went back and forth. It was very intense and very physical. We were rebounding and pushing (the ball),” said Russell, who scored on a fast break dunk with 2:19 left to give the Grangers a 73-65 lead.
Putting the Academy of Richmond County away was nothing but hard work. It took a long time – four quarters, in fact. The Musketeers cut the LaGrange High lead to 59-57 on a Moses Williams layup and free throw early in the fourth period.
TheAcademy of Richmond County kept coming. The Musketeers were once again down by just two points at 63-61 after senior guard Jason Weaver’s layup with 5:09 remaining.
Granger senior Laperion Perry took the hint and the ball. He went airmail with a fast break layin for a 65-61 LaGrange High lead with 4:49 left. That started a 22-13 run for the Grangers, a Gabe Duckett three-pointer included.
Perry would also knock down a four-foot jumper for the Grangers in the final 3:30 of the game. Russell would chip in a field goal as well, and LaGrange High would bag some Bryan Fanning free throws coming down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
“We beat a good team that was well coached. They had some shooters,” said coach Mark Veal of the Grangers (26-3). “But we played well. We got some big buckets from Bryan (Fanning) and Laperion (Perry). We were good enough.”
The Grangers showed some State Tournament poise. The Musketeers battled as well, for 32 minutes.
“Our players gave everything that they had. We tried to spoil their party, and we felt like we had a chance to move on (in the State Tournament),” said Musketeer head coach Steve Nobles.
But the Grangers are the team that would move one step closer to the Class AAAA Final Four on this night. LaGrange High gave a command performance with 32 points from Perry, 13 points from Fanning, 12 points from Gabe Duckett, and nine points each from Russell and Kenan Gray.
The Academy of Richmond County flushed the basket as well with 29 points from Dantavian Stephens, 21 points from senior forward Moses Williams, 12 points from Jason Weaver and eight points from junior guard Jacobi Wood. The Musketeers have ended their season with a 23-6 record.
Chris Fernsler Sports Writer