By Kevin Eckleberry Sports Editor
December 30, 2013
It wasn’t the start LaGrange coach Mike Pauley was looking for.
Facing Valley in the third-place game of the LaGrange Toyota Basketball Classic on Monday, LaGrange played an uneven first half en route to an 18-14 lead.
During the halftime break, Pauley made sure to let the players know he wasn’t happy with what he was seeing.
“I challenged the kids at halftime. I challenge their maturity. I looked at my staff and said, we’re just being immature,” Pauley said. “And they did respond very well.”
Indeed they did.
After scoring 18 points in the first half, the Grangers put 20 points on the board in the third quarter to take an eight-point lead.
The Grangers led by as many as 15 points in the fourth period, and after withstanding a Valley run, they hung on for a 51-43 win.
The victory allowed the Grangers to close the tournament with a 2-1 record.
LaGrange had hoped to play for the tournament championship, but it lost to Opelika 53-49 on Saturday in the semifinals.
Not being in the championship was “a let-down” according to Pauley.
“We were disappointed not to play in that game. But this was good for us,” Pauley said. “I said things tonight I hadn’t said all season about their spirit, about our team work, about our unselfish play. I told them I was really disappointed. But the guys, they responded. I was really pleased.”
Walter Shelton led the Grangers with 12 points, and Danterrius Bray added nine points, all on 3-pointers.
Caleb Jenkins led Valley with 21 points, with 15 of those points coming in the second half.
In a first half where points were hard to come by, LaGrange led 9-7 after the first quarter, and it was up 18-14 at the break.
In the third period, after LaGrange went up by four, Valley went on an 8-2 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Jenkins, to take a 28-26 lead with 3:15 showing on the clock.
The Grangers outscored the Rams 12-2 the rest of the quarter, though, to take a 38-30 lead.
Bray and Derieko Smith each made 3-pointers to help LaGrange build some separation heading into the fourth quarter.
The Grangers continued to control the action in the fourth period, with a 3-pointer from Bray giving them a 49-34 lead with 4:12 to play.
The Rams weren’t done, though.
While LaGrange was struggling to make free throws, Valley strung together nine straight points to get within six with 51 seconds remaining.
But the Rams didn’t score again, and LaPerion Perry made a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left to clinch it.
LaGrange will return to the court on Friday for a road game against Shaw.
It will be the Grangers’ Region 5-AAAA opener.