Keyondra Jenkins and the Lady Tigers bested LaGrange for the region title.
(Staff Photo by Christopher Dunn)
The Lady Tigers are back on top. The Fayette County girls claimed another region championship on Saturday with their 49-37 win over LaGrange.
All season long, head coach John Strickland preached that it didn't matter how you got there, as long as you got there. While other teams fell by the wayside, this young team climbed back to the mountaintop. For the sixth time in Strickland's eight years as head coach, his Tigers have won the region.
"That was our goal. That was our plan," said Strickland. "This year we started out with a young team experience wise. To be able to do this is just great. We kept fighting and got it done."
Though much of this year's squad is younger, they are still led by players who have seen the bright lights of a championship game. They were ready. LaGrange may have beaten them in the regular season, but Fayette knew they could win when it counted most and they did.
The Tigers jumped out to an early lead thanks to the sharp shooting of Aneesa Watson and didn't let go. After one quarter, Fayette led 14-9. By halftime they had stretched the margin to 31-19. A putback by Asia Harper, a runner from Kayla Smith, and a beautiful dish from Keyondra Jenkins to Whitney Williams put the Grangers in the rearview mirror early.
Ciaira Hughes started the second half strong on the glass with a pair of quick putbacks to end any hopes of a LaGrange rally. Kayla Smith would hit from deep and Hughes would come through with another bucket as the Tigers stretched their lead to 41-27 after three quarters. Smith picked up a pair of key buckets early in the final frame to ice the Tigers’ 49-37 victory.
Fayette County will host Eastside in the first round of the state tournament.
In the nightcap the Fayette Couny boys would come up just short in their bid for a region championship sweep of LaGrange, falling 53-49.
The Tigers started the game hot on threes by Clark Minnifield and Corey Williams. A Minnifield pull-up jumper would knot the game at 11-11 before the Grangers pulled out a 16-13 at the end of the first quarter.
Dante' Sterling heated up with a jumper and a three. Another Minnifield three and a CJ Johnson bucket gave the Tigers their first lead since the early ticks at 26-23. A Sterling drive to the hoop would push the lead to five points before a late LaGrange rally, capped by a buzzer beater, tied the game at 28-28 at halftime.
The long range shots kept falling for the Tigers early in the second half as Corey Williams, Minnifield, and Sterling all hit from deep. The Grangers would hold a slight two point lead heading into the final frame.
The fourth quarter was a fitting end to a back and forth thriller. The deficit stayed at two points as CJ Johnson executed a nice spin and score and Sterling drained a three with a hand in his face. A Corey Williams putback kept the margin at 47-45 with under two minutes left.
LaGrange kept hitting their shots, building up a six point lead with under a minute left, but the Tigers had one more rally in them. A tremendous drive to the hoop with a circus shot by Kelvin King drew a foul and resulted in a three point play to pull the Tigers within 51-49 with seconds remaining. Fayette would run out of time to finish the comeback though and fall 53-49.
The Tigers will host Stephens County in the first round of the state tournament.