Laney boys basketball coach Jerry Hunter can see the progress. The play in crunch time is the proof.
The talented – but inexperienced – Wildcats posted wins on consecutive nights, earning a 56-48 win over Beach on Saturday in the Augusta-Savannah Classic at Josey High School. The Wildcats beat Savannah on Friday.
Laney is 4-2, with five of the six games coming against schools in higher classifications. The other game was against rival Josey.
“It gives us an opportunity to grow,” Hunter said of the tough early schedule. “Experience is the best teacher. That’s going to sum up our season.”
The Wildcats led most of the way Saturday behind tough defense and a balanced attack.
JaShawn Brooks hit four 3-pointers and had a team-high 14 points. His first 3-pointer ended a second-quarter drought that lasted more than three minutes.
Even when Laney was slumping or struggling with turnovers, it found a way to keep Beach far enough behind.
In the fourth quarter, with the Bulldogs climbing back to within four, Christian Keeling emerged, scoring seven of his 11 points. That offset Beach’s Shawn Brooks, who scored 20 points.
With the Bulldogs trying to come back, Laney’s Jaylen Taylor received a long pass and finished around the rim for the game’s final points.
The schools also met in the girls game, with Laney winning 70-57.
Each team had big leads – Beach by nine in the third and Laney by 12 in the first quarter – before the Lady Wildcats pulled away late.
Laney had trouble with Beach’s man-to-man press at times, but the Lady Wildcats had the edge around the basket. Khadijiah Cave and Wynetta Wright each had 16 points, and Simone Smith added 10 while battling foul trouble.
After Beach’s Ilyn Spann hit back-to-back 3s in the third quarter, the Lady Wildcats struck back. Wright was the closer, getting three buckets in a row to end the quarter as her team led 50-47. Wright had 16 in the game.
After ending the third strongly, Laney (6-0) started forcing turnovers as the advantage grew.
“This is a state game to me,” Laney coach Otis Smart said, reflecting on the competition. “I just appreciate that we won the game. We need more games like this.”