Disappointment was written on their faces like a hardback novel.
It has not been a good basketball season for the La-Grange Academy boys and head coach Will Long. The season has been taxing and long. The Warriors are still trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
But the main thing is, this Warrior roundball team is still trying. Despite their spotty record – 2-12 overall and 0-8 in Region 1-AA – the Warriors are still playing hard for Will Long and the faithful LaGrange Academy crowd.
“I’m seeing resiliency and adversity. We’re aggressive to the rim. We’re an inexperienced team, but we’re still fighting. Sometimes we lose our poise a little bit, but we can beat anybody,” said Long.
Neither he or his team have given up on this rebuilding season. The Warriors are still trying, and they’re still playing as hard as the No. 1 team in the state. But the LaGrange Academy boys did take another mis-step on Tuesday night with a 44-42 overtime home loss to Notre Dame Academy of Duluth.
Like always, LaGrange Academy kept scrapping until the final possession. The last team with the ball did not win. After Warrior senior center Daniel Swann cut the Irish lead to just two points on a pair of free throws with six seconds left, LaGrange Academy sophomore guard Ujwal Modi stole the ball and it ended up in the hands of Warrior senior Mason Brown.
He got off a 10-foot jump shot to beat the final buzzer. The ball touched a lot of iron, but the shot would not go in. And the LaGrange Academy boys lost their eighth straight region game in the Georgia Independent School Association.
This defeat was particularly painful for the Warriors because they led for the entire first half. With 3:19 left in the second period, Notre Dame Academy had just four points in the game. The Irish did go on an 8-0 run to end the first half, but this was still the Warriors game to win or to lose.
“It is all about the mindset. Our defense was fantastic, and we tried to mix things up. But then we started to turn the ball over at an alarming rate. And we missed a lot of free throws,” said Long.
The Warriors let the air out of their almost certain win, eventually. But until then, LaGrange Academy was rocking right along with a Modi three-pointer and backto- back field goals from Swann. Junior forward Alex Wilson also scored on a putback for the Warriors.
And on the heels of that was a Wilson layup and two 3-point bombs from LaGrange Academy junior guard Riley Hess from the baseline. With 1:23 left in the third period the Warriors had a 31-20 lead.
Notre Dame Academy went on a 5-0 run to end the third quarter. That whittled the Warrior lead to 31-25. From then until the final seconds of the game, including overtime, the Warriors were out of sync most of the time.
They did, however, force overtime with a tying layup from Swann with 26 seconds to go in the fourth period. LaGrange Academy deadlocked the game at, 36-36.
The Notre Dame Academy Irish never trailed in the extra period of play as they scored the first two buckets of the overtime. Freshman guard Kendall Braxton and junior forward Dominic Rice came through for the Irish in the opening seconds on a pair of layups.
LaGrange Academy did keep it interesting with a Brown layup, and some Modi and Swann free throws. But the Irish held on, and it went down to the nerveracking end. “We won with grit and toughness. We got lucky,” said coach Reilly Campbell of Notre Dame Academy