There is something different about this year’s La-Grange High boys basketball team.
It starts with their 5-0 record. It then moves on to their No. 6 state ranking in Class AAAA. And it continues with the Grangers relentless play, from rimto- rim.
The LaGrange High players dive for the ball. They play chest-to-chest defense. The Grangers crash the boards like fat men at the dessert buffet.
Coach Mark Veal’s team puts on a basketball clinic with each game. The Grangers play all out and in your face. LaGrange High plays the game the right way.
The Grangers play every possession as if it was for the state championship. In a few months that very well could be the case. Veal has a team that is capable of making a good, long run.
Veal’s boys surely played some fast break basketball with defensive physicality included on Tuesday night. The Grangers stirred the basketball pot with a 6041 win over the Hampton Hornets with 1,000 fans voicing their approval in the LaGrange High gym.
The Grangers kept their record unblemished, and they turned up the volume on their promising season. By the way, LaGrange High cut the Hornets no slack.
Not from the opening tipoff to Nafis Carston’s slam dunk in the fourth quarter. That resounding, gym-jolting bucket gave the Grangers a massive 52-27 lead with 5:23 left in the game.
“We came out strong. We played fast. We boxed out, and we scored. We work hard every day. We are serious,” said the 6foot-4 Carston, the Grangers senior center.
LaGrange High played some tournament-style basketball most of the evening. After falling behind 2-0 on a tipin from Hampton junior forward Kyle Fortune in the opening minute of the game, LaGrange High came back with a 7-0 run behind junior forward Javon Brown and senior guard D.J. Burks.
“We rebounded, and we played 100 percent. We played defense for sure, and we ran the transition. We wanted to win,” said the 6foot-3 Brown, who scored 15 points on the night.
Carston also played with his heart and his head. He tallied 17 points in the game. Burks had a 10point outing, and senior guard Blake Miles tossed in several three-pointers for the Grangers. Miles finished with six points.
LaGrange High kept stoking the fire and feeding the basketball monster. The Grangers got a putback from Brown and a layin from Carston in the first period.
And the Grangers would take a 16-8 lead on a Carston putback. Burks, the 6-foot-1 senior guard for LHS, also took up the slack when needed. Like in the second quarter when Burks floated inside for a five-foot jumper for a 228 Granger lead.
Earley Sanders, the La-Grange High 6-foot-3 guard, also buried a medium-range jumper for a 25-11 Granger advantage. Burks also sank two second quarter free throws.
LaGrange High senior guard Blake Miles also nailed one of his two three-pointers to increase the Granger lead to 30-18 late in the first half.
“We were locked in. Our guys have experience, and I was proud of our defense,” said Veal.
At no point during the game did the Grangers relax and let the game come to them. LaGrange High was ready to pounce. The Grangers got another Blake Miles three-point bucket to open the third period.
LaGrange High also got a layup from Burks at the four-minute mark of the quarter. Burks kicked the LHS lead to 20 points at 39-19. Javon Brown followed with a layup for the Grangers.
Nafis Carston scored as well on a layup before Hampton answered with a couple of free throws from junior forward Jahmier Velazquez. The Hornets were still behind by 18 at the end of the third period with a score of 43-25.
“We did not max La- Grange’s energy. They played harder. LaGrange murdered us on the boards,” said coach William Gordon of Hampton (3-4).
The Grangers also finished the game in style with fourth quarter buckets from Brown, Carston and sophomore guard Jakobe Jones. Freshman guard Kiian Hodnett also scored on a putback for the Grangers in the last period of play.
“We moved the ball, and we hit the backboards,” said Carston, who was one of three double-figure scorers for LaGrange High.
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