Thanks to an explosive second quarter, the Grangers found themselves up 47-31 at the half in a first-round game in the LaGrange Toyota Basketball Classic at LaGrange High.
The Rams fought back in the second half, though, and they were within six with seven minutes left in the game.
But the Grangers (9-0) dominated the game from there and rolled to a 76-58 victory to take the first step toward a possible repeat championship.
After the Rams (5-9) made their run, LaGrange head coach Mike Pauley said. “we did what we were supposed to do. They got it to a six-point game, and then we just went on a tear.”
Don Leak, a senior post player, had a big game with 18 points, and he was a force on the boards and on defense.
“I was real pleased with Don Leak’s play,” Pauley said. “He really played well.”
Leak’s presence on the boards was particularly welcome since Drew Moody, one of the team’s leading rebounders, was out with an injury.
“I just wanted to pick up the slack,” Leak said.
Baron Smith added 17 points, and Justyn Olson contributed 16 points.
Caleb Jenkins led Valley with 18 points.
The Rams held an 18-17 lead after the opening period, but the Grangers put 30 points on the board in the second quarter to take a 16-point lead.
Leak had eight points in the second period, and Olson and Smith had six and five points, respectively, in the quarter.
“They were ahead of us after the first quarter. I thought the second quarter we responded real well,” Pauley said. “We called some different defenses, and that pressure kind of exposed them. That helped, too. The kids picked up the defense and just kind of got rolling.”
The Rams began to chip away at the deficit in the third period.
With 45 seconds left in the quarter, the Rams got within six on a Ken McCray 3-pointer, but LaGrange’s Anthony Alexander hit one from long distance with 18 seconds left to make it a 56-47 lead heading into the final period.
When McCray hit a pair of free throws with 7:02 left in the game, the Rams were again within six, but the Grangers ran off the next six points to build the lead to 64-52 with 5:45 left.
The Rams were within 10 with five minutes remaining, but they were outscored 10-2 the rest of the way.
After getting outscored by seven points in the third period, the Grangers outscored the Rams 20-11 in the final quarter to put it away.