Despite losing key players from a season ago, the Laney boys basketball team is in the Class AA state semifinals for the third year in a row after a 71-59 win against Morgan County on Saturday night at Savannah State.
“This team, we believe in each other,” guard Raheem Newton said. “It’s not a surprise.”
With Laney playing away from home for the first time in the playoffs, the Wildcats wanted a quick start to take control.
Thanks to Shaquille Cook’s dominance inside and Jammie West’s drives, Laney did, as it had a double-digit lead by halftime.
Cook took over in key moments, scoring near the hoop and serving as a force on defense. He had 23 points in the game, working toward his total with a tip in.
The Wildcats held the Bulldogs to only nine points in the second quarter, when Glenn Rodriguez finished a transition chance and West followed his first-quarter scoop with another successful drive.
Laney, which made 13 more free throws, eventually went ahead by as much as 19 points in the second half.
Matters changed in the fourth, however, when Tookie Brown tried to spark a comeback bid. Brown put up 16 of his 19 points in the final period, hitting six field goals.
Besides drilling a 3-pointer in the period, Brown also cut the deficit to 61-54 with another basket. But that was the closest Morgan County would get with Rodriguez responding to the challenge.
The senior finished second-chance opportunities late, helping him score 10 of his 15 points in the last quarter and giving Laney a win against Morgan County for the second time this season.
Starting with a win on Jan. 10, the Bulldogs were 0-2 against the Wildcats and 17-0 against every one else.
With the second win, the Wildcats head back to Macon, where they’ll play Jordan on Thursday for a spot in the championship game.
“It says a lot about the kids,” Wildcats coach Jerry Hunter said about returning to the semifinals. “They did it under a season of adversity and doubt.”