Despite trailing by nine points in the fourth quarter, the Laney boys basketball team came back to win at home against Dublin, 53-50, Friday night in a Region 3-AA Tournament semifinal. The Wildcats play for the region title tonight at 6:30.
“They’re beginning to believe,” Laney coach Jerry Hunter said. “That’s important. With all the talent they bring, the most important thing is being mentally prepared.”
Laney, the Class AA defending state champion, has mostly fresh faces – and those belong to underclassmen – but the Wildcats took over late by a combination of great individual efforts and tough defense.
Freshman Zephaniah Jasper started the rally, hitting a 3-pointer and also aggressively attacking the interior. Jasper scored 20 points, doing most of his damage at the foul line, where he made all 12 of his attempts.
Christian Keeling then went on a solo scoring run, making a steal and keeping possession close to the line before a score. He then finished off a possession that used perfect passing, getting a close look for a field goal.
With the Wildcats (18-8) now playing with a 51-48 lead, they executed defensively and then saw senior Mike Lewis calmly hit two free throws for the game’s last points. Lewis, who also made two 3s in the game, got those two foul shots with 22.6 seconds top play.
Dublin (18-8) did get a chance to tie, but after a fake gave JaCori Payne a cleaner look, Payne was off with his shot, allowing Laney to play for a No. 1 seed in the state tournament.
As for the Fighting Irish, they got 15 points from Saquawn Floyd. He scored seven consecutive points that turned a 28-25 Laney lead into a 32-28 Dublin advantage.
Though the Fighting Irish soon went up by nine points, Laney clawed back for the tight win.
“Everybody said, all year, we’d never make it. But we came together and we bonded,” Lewis said. “We just dug deep; we had to trust each other.”