LAGRANGE – They weren’t going to let history repeat itself.
A year ago, the LaGrange Academy Warriors came into the region tournament needing a win to qualify for state, but they were knocked off in the first round.
It was a bitterly disappointing conclusion to the season, and that memory was fresh in the minds of LaGrange Academy’s players heading into Tuesday’s game against Flint River Academy in the first round of the GISA Region 1-AA tournament.
“We got upset (last year). It was shocking,” senior Zach Callaghan said. “That was a game we expected to win going into it. I think tonight, you saw early, we were not losing this game. We wanted to go to state, so we came out strong.”
Indeed they did.
The Warriors put on a clinic, surging to a 36-2 lead in the second quarter, and they went on to win 58-34 to assure themselves of a spot in the state tournament.
Now LaGrange Academy will try to go win a region title.
LaGrange Academy will host Bethlehem Christian on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. in the semfinals, with the winner advancing to Friday’s region-championship game.
Whatever happens the rest of this week, LaGrange Academy head coach Britt Gaylor is glad he’ll be able to lead his players into the state tournament after failing to meet that goal a year ago.
“It feels good, especially with this seniors,” Gaylor said. “This is my first group I’ve been with four years. So to be able to get back with them is big. I was hoping to do that for them. That’s a good feeling to have.”
LaGrange Academy had beaten Flint River handily twice in the regular season, but Callaghan said no one was taking the game for granted.
“It’s a rival. So you never know what’ll happen,” Callaghan said. “My freshman year, we played them in the first round of the region, and they came out and beat is and ended our season. So you never know.
It was evident pretty quickly, though, that there would be no upset this time.
After Whit Moreman scored back-to-back baskets to start the game after pulling down offensive rebounds, Colby Heath hit a 3-pointer to make it a 7-0 game, and the rout was on.
By the time Will Trotter made a 3-pointer three minutes into the game, the Warriors already had an 11-0 lead, and Lincoln Anderson’s steal and fast-break dunk pushed the lead to 16-0.
Flint River finally got a basket to make it a 16-2 game, but LaGrange Academy scored the final 12 points of the first quarter to take a 28-2 lead.
The Warriors then scored the first eight points of the second quarter to push the lead to 36-2, and by the half they were ahead 41-12.
Gaylor wasn’t a bit surprised to see his team come out and play so well early.
“I had no doubt that they would, especially with those seniors in the locker room that went through it last year,” Gaylor said. “I knew we’d come out hard, and focused, and take care of business from there.”
Midway through the second quarter, Gaylor began substituting freely, and all 15 players who were available got some playing time.
Moreman led the Warriors with 23 points, Anderson added 15 points, and Heath scored nine points.
LaGrange Academy lost both of its regular-season meetings to Bethlehem Christian, and both games were close.
The Warriors will look to turn the tables in Thursday’s game.
“We expect a good game,” Gaylor said. “They’re well-coached, and we’ll see what happens. Hopefully we can come out and put 32 minutes together this time.”
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports