Still, the Laney boys basketball team cheered a win in the final home game of the season, a 44-37 Wednesday triumph over Thomasville in the second round of the Class AA state tournament. The Wildcats move on to the quarterfinals, with a win on Saturday at Savannah State putting them in the semifinals.
“It’s hard, because when you win you want to enjoy it,” senior Glenn Rodriguez said. “But you got to keep your composure.”
On Wednesday, Laney (25-4) was the stronger team late, taking a 26-all tie through three quarters and making it a win behind clutch points and stingy defense.
The ball was often in Jammie West’s hands as the fourth quarter closed, and the senior hit three of his final four free throws and made a huge shot in the fourth to give his side a 38-32 lead — the largest Wildcats advantage at that point.
But the Laney defense was the story, with one stop allowing Shaquille Cook to put down a slam on a fastbreak.
The defense then made one final steal, when Rodriguez got one to waste away crucial seconds as the final horn neared. Rodriguez also gave Laney the lead for good, tipping in a teammate’s miss for a slim 30-28 advantage.
The Wildcats’ defense helped Laney stay in contention even when the offense scored only 14 total points in the second and third quarters – a drought that included a six-plus minute stretch without a field goal.
Though Laney struggled to add points, the Bulldogs actually fared worse, posting only 12 points in the second and third quarters.
Besides going through cold shooting stretches from the field, Thomasville also bricked foul shots. The Bulldogs missed 11 of their first 13 free throw attempts, and not even three consecutive makes by Devonta Wyche could save Thomasville.
However, with Willie Clayton, Thomasville’s post players came down with offensive boards and rejected a handful of close Laney shots.
Clayton had 17 points in the game to lead all players, but it wasn’t enough as Laney marched on to the Elite Eight.
“It’s OK to feel good, but it’s not time to celebrate,” Wildcats coach Jerry Hunter said.