Ten visiting buses have lurched down Laney Walker Boulevard this basketball season.
Once their players empty into Laney's gym, they've all met a familiar result: fall behind early, lose big in the girls game. Let the boys take court, and watch as the cycle repeats itself.
Both Wildcats teams wrapped up undefeated regular-season home records Friday night against Vidalia. Laney's girls won 71-35, more than doubling the score of an opponent who's been ranked most of the season. Its boys triumphed 57-44, holding a double-digit lead for more than three quarters in a tense game that ended with the teams refusing to shake hands.
"Everybody's getting beat here by 30," Vidalia boys coach Tommy Dalley said. "The fans are 6 inches off the floor. They've always been a good program. This is just a tough place to play, which is what you want out of a homecourt advantage."
The girls game didn't possess near the intensity of what would follow. Taylor Ayers scored 15 points, and only a missed layup in the waning moments prevented the Wildcats from leading by 30 at halftime against a 15-win team.
Laney (19-3, 8-0), ranked third in the state, outraced the Indians for layups, and in the halfcourt dumped the ball down low to Ayers, who was being scouted by a member of UNC Charlotte's coaching staff.
"Our conditioning is tremendous right now," Laney girls coach Otis Smart said.
Smart said he planned on practicing this morning, even though his team won't play again until next Saturday night at Josey.
"We can't slow up," Smart said. "That's what concerns me right now."
In the boys game, the fourth-ranked Wildcats (20-4, 8-0) won for the fourth consecutive time after their Jan. 24 nine-point loss at Dublin, the state's top-ranked team.
Rod Hall scored a team-high 11, and seniors Santrez Hall and Donovan Stone had 10 points each.
"The kids understand what it means to protect your house, where you sweat and work hard everyday," said Laney boys coach Justin Durham, whose team was 6-20 two years ago. "These seniors turned this program around."
But Durham became frustrated when, after outscoring the Indians 20-7 in the opening quarter, the Wildcats couldn't sustain their intensity. The teams played even the final three quarters (37-37).
"The fourth-best team in the state puts that team away; you don't play around with them, let them get confidence," Durham said. "That's what I was most disappointed tonight."
Reach Matt Middleton at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.