LAGRANGE, Ga. — A loud gym became deafening when LaGrange’s Rico Smith put a short lay-in through the net with nine seconds remaining top top Shaw 56-55 in the Region 1-5A boys championship game.
Trailing by one point, Smith went coast to coast in six seconds to put the ball up and in, completing a comeback from 10 points down in the fourth quarter for the win.
“It’s a tough way to lose it,” Shaw coach Terry White said after the game. “Very disappointing to have it end that way. I thought we played hard and gave our best effort, they just made one more play than we did at the end.”
With the win, the Grangers clinched the top seed out of the region in the Class 5A playoffs, while Shaw falls to the 2-seed. The Raiders will still have home-court advantage when the playoffs start next week.
Shaw was at an early disadvantage when senior leader Dakeen Diaz got into foul trouble. Still, the Raiders took control in the second quarter, taking a 32-24 lead into the half. That lead was 46-39 after three and up to 50-40 with 6:55 remaining in the game.
Then LaGrange got into a groove.
The Grangers went on a 13-2 run, including a pair of three-pointers that elicited loud cheers from the LaGrange student section, to take a 53-52 lead with 2:35 left.
A bucket by B.J. Knight and a free throw by Kourtney Shakespeare put Shaw back on top 55-53 with under 40 seconds left. LaGrange’s LaPerion Perry hit a free throw to cut the lead to one with 29 seconds left, and Smith scored the game-winner. Shaw had a chance to win it at the end, but the ball caromed off the rim and bounced away as the buzzer sounded.
“We’ve got to learn from it,” White said. “Next week starts the new season, and we’ve got to be ready for it.
Diaz and Devan Porter-Wilson led Shaw with 12 points apiece in the loss. LaGrange was led by Smith’s 19 points, Gabe Duckett’s 12 and Perry’s 11.
Now, Shaw looks to the playoffs, where it will be a 2-seed. Despite the loss, White knows anything can happen.
“We’ve won in the first round as a 4-seed before,” he said. “At this point, everyone’s good. You have to be ready for anything.”
Saturday at LaGrange
Shaw 15 17 14 9—55
LaGrange 11 13 15 17—56
Dakeen Diaz 12, Devan Porter-Wilson 12, Shakespeare 9, Paulding 8, Knight 7, Brown 4, Hicks 3.
Rico Smith 19, Gabe Duckett 12, LaPerion Perry 11, Hardy 8, Freeman 3, Epps 2, Gray 1.
Records: Shaw, 19-9; LaGrange, 22-5. Next: Shaw, vs. TBD in Class 5A first round; LaGrange, vs. TBD in Class 5A first round.