The crowd screamed for 3-point daggers and stood for dunks, but coach Buck Harris is about the stops.
After struggling through bouts of poor defensive rebounding, the Laney boys basketball team clamped down to defeat McIntosh County Academy 80-57 on Monday in the second round of the Class AA state tournament. The Wildcats didn’t allow a field goal in the third quarter, and advanced to the state quarterfinals.
Trailing by as many as eight points in the second quarter, Laney went on a 32-5 run to take control.
“I kind of challenged them at halftime,” Harris said. “We came out and we were relentless and we got some transition buckets. The guys responded. I loved the defensive effort.”
The comeback was fueled by the defense, starting with JaShawn Brooks’ steal and slam. After drawing on charge on the previous possession, Collin Young hit a 3-pointer that gave the Wildcats (24-4) the lead for the first time at 44-41.
They never loosened their grip.
A 12-2 spurt to end the first half was followed by a 20-3 run in the third period. The Buccaneers’ Trevon Scott, who had 14 first-half points, scored only two points in the second half.
But he wasn’t the only McIntosh County Academy player to struggle.
Laney, which gave up 41 points in the first half, surrendered only 16 points in the final two quarters.
The Wildcats’ 3-point attempts that were missed most of the first half started to fall. Brooks hit back-to-back 3-pointers on his way to 20 points. He and Young have made seven 3-pointers apiece in two state playoff games.
Laney’s Christian Keeling had 11 points, getting to the mark by not being afraid to drive in close for a shot.
“They jumped on us 7-0 and all of our shots were long, so I called a timeout and told them to settle down, relax,” Harris said. “We came out and finally scored and got it going.”