Just out of reach: No. 1 Lafayette slips by Pike County, 61-58 in Class 3A semifinals

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 23, 2002

Sports Editor

For four quarters unranked and unheralded Pike County kept the fans of Lafayette High School on the edge of their seats during Thursday’s Class 3A boys regional semifinal.

But the Bulldogs, which led by as many as nine in the first quarter, couldn’t overcome a five-point deficit late in the final period and fell to the top-ranked 3A team in the state, 61-58.

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Pike County ends the year with a 12-13 overall record.

"I thought when either one of us got a pretty good cushion late in the game it would be hard to get back in it," said PCHS head coach Danny Suber. "It was a great game. All afternoon long, just to stay in the game was difficult."

Lafayette head coach John Woody echoed Suber’s statements.

"It was one heck of a ball game," he said. "They’re a well disciplined and well coached team. I told my kids that they (PCHS) went deep into football season and for them to come out and play as well as they did, they have to have a good team."

Tied at 30-30 going into the second half, the game stayed close throughout in the third with Lafayette grabbing a 45-43 advantage at 1:08 left in the quarter.

Pike County’s Antwan McGuire would get two layups courtesy of back-to-back assists from Nick Walker and Reggie Griffin and the senior’s foul shot with 7:06 remaining gave the Bulldogs a 48-45 lead.

Two free throws by Kirnard Mangram and a layup by Chris Simpson pulled LHS within one, 50-49. A minute later, Mangram connected on two more foul shots to put Lafayette back on top, 52-50.

A Mecose Todd two-pointer extended Lafayette’s lead to 58-53 with 2:09 left to go.

Michael Walker would connect on a baseline layup for Pike County. With 1:10 showing on the clock, Lafayette was up just 60-58.

Lafayette hit only one foul shot in five trips to the line during the final forty seconds of play, giving the Bulldogs two chances to tie it up. But both three-pointers, one by Griffin and the other by Codie Terry, failed to draw iron.

"We like to play a fast, up-tempo game," said Woody. "But they slowed it down on us. I think we played better in the second half once we adjusted to what they were doing."

Pike County had four players place in double figures. Nick Walker (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Michael Walker (14 points, 12 rebounds) both had double-doubles. McGuire finished with 12 points and Griffin added 10.

Simpson led Lafayette with 17 points. Todd scored 16 and Clinton Burton added 11.

The Bulldogs hit just four-of-12 from the foul line. Lafayette also turned a six turnover differential, (PCHS lost the ball 19 times compared LHS’s 13) into 24 points.

"In the second half we just tried to continue to penetrate and get it inside," said Suber. "I was concerned about us being able to get back on defense, but it didn’t hurt us as much late in the game as it did early."

The Bulldogs did win the battle of the boards, pulling down 39 rebounds to Lafayette’s 30.

Lafayette (24-5) moves on to face Montgomery Academy in the regional championship on Saturday morning. The winner advances to the 3A Final Four in Birmingham.