LAGRANGE – After two impressive wins to open the season, the LaGrange Grangers were hoping to keep the good times rolling in their home debut on Tuesday.
That’s exactly what happened.
With senior guard Derieko Smith coming through with a 32-point performance, LaGrange made relatively easy work of Woodward Academy on the way to a 74-58 victory.
The Grangers, now 3-0 under first-year head coach Mark Veal, will look to keep their perfect record intact when they host the rival Troup Tigers on Friday.
The win over Woodward was an impressive one.
The War Eagles came into the game with a 1-2 record, but they’d played a challenging schedule that included a two-point loss to an always tough Walton team.
Woodward Academy couldn’t keep pace with LaGrange, though.
The War Eagles had a 5-2 lead moments into the game, but Smith knocked down a 3-pointer to tie it, and the Grangers were off and running.
Jarious Freeman hit a 3-pointer of his own moments later to give the Grangers an 8-5 lead, and they didn’t look back.
With Smith scoring 12 points, the Grangers surged to a 17-11 lead after the first period, and they were ahead 35-25 at the half.
Smith, the defending Region 1-AAAAA player of the year, scored 17 points in the opening half.
The halftime break did nothing to slow Smith, who made three 3-pointers in the third period, and the Grangers headed into the final quarter with a 56-43 lead.
Bryan Fanning scored all six of his points in the third quarter to help the Grangers extend their lead.
Smith capped his big night with six more points in the fourth quarter, and Alex Dantzler scored five of his eight points in the final period as the Grangers cruised to the win.
“I think defensively we’ve got some things we’ve got to work on if we’re going to get better,” LaGrange head coach Mark Veal said. “I thought offensively we did a good job. We had guys that took good shots. We had good looks.”
In Tuesday’s girls’ game, it came down to the closing moments, and it was Woodward Academy hanging on for a 58-55 victory.
Head coach Jan Fendley felt her team did a lot of things right, but the Lady Grangers were unable to overcome a tough night from the free-throw line.
“We played well enough to win the ballgame,” Fendley said. “I think we were 15-of-34 from the free-throw line. That’s too many points. My whole post-game speech was, free throws cost us that ballgame, and they did.”
Aryan Dozier and Shania Woodard each scored 19 points for LaGrange, and Carmen McGhee added nine points.
Woodward Academy’s Tyler Collins had a big night with 31 points, and she was 11-of-12 from the free-throw line.
LaGrange led 12-10 after the first quarter, and Woodward Academy rallied to take a 27-25 lead at the half.
LaGrange outscored Woodward Academy 14-12 in the third period, and it was a tie game heading into the final quarter.
Collins scored with 30 seconds left to give the Lady War Eagles a 57-55 lead, and neither team scored again.
The Lady Grangers had their chances in the closing moments, but they were unable to convert.
“We did better limiting turnovers, and we played well defensively,” Fendley said. “We played well all-around, we just didn’t make free throws.”
The Lady Grangers (2-1), who won two road games to begin the season, will look to begin a new winning streak when they host the Troup Lady Tigers on Friday.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports