By Lee Wright
Special to News-Daily
The opponent may have been one of Georgia's elite, but the Luella Lions were having none of it on Tuesday night.
Spearheaded by a fourth-quarter charge, Luella pulled off a big early-season upset with a thrilling 60-53 victory over visiting Westlake. This is the same Westlake that is traditionally one of the top powers in boys basketball in the state. This is the same Westlake that last season advanced to the Class AAAAA state championship before falling to nationally-ranked Milton in the championship.
That was all the more reason for Luella head coach Jamond Sims to savor this victory.
"This was a big win for us," said Sims. "A big thumb print for our program. I am so proud of these kids. They were intimidated at first by the name, and not as much by the product on the floor."
Luella stayed within striking distance for much of the third quarter, trailing 44-38 at the end of the period. However, the Lions began to make their move in the final stanza.
Twice, Luella cut the Westlake lead to two points early. Titus Lamb gave Westlake a 50-46 lead with 4:24 remaining. But that would be the last points for Westlake for the next four minutes. Meanwhile, Luella took control with a 14-0 run.
Chris Taylor cut the lead to two points with a lay-up, and then a 3-point basket by A.J. Crossland put Luella ahead for good, 51-50 at the 2:57 mark. But that was just the beginning.
Bryan Parker followed with a baseline jumper to increase the lead to three points. A Westlake turnover followed, and Deandre Akins answered with an alley-oop dunk in transition to give Luella a 56-50 lesad with 1:11 remaining. Crossland added a lay-up, and two free throws by Lewis Donalson gave Luella a 60-50 lead with 22 seconds remaining.
"It was nip-and-tuck before that run in the fourth quarter," Sims said. "We had to focus a lot on their dribble penetration in the second half, not to mention their great shooters. It will be a wide-open region from here on out."
Crossland scored 13 points to pace Luella, while Akins scored 11 points. For Westlake, Keenan Williams scored 15 points, and Ronnie Harris scored 10 points.
Girls: Westlake 57, Luella 43: Westlake used its tremendous size to keep Luella at bay to win its sixth straight game with a 57-43 victory over Luella.
Westlake kept its lead at double-digit throughout, leading by 15 points at halftime and at the end of the third quarter. Luella was able to trim the Westlake lead twice to 10 points, but that was as close as the Lady Lions would get.
Head coach Hilda Hankerson's Westlake squad featured 6-foot-2 junior Caron Brown and 6-foot senior Ashley Johnson, who wrecked Luella in the post. The duo scored 16 points each. Aisha Turner-Johnson added 10 points for Westlake.
For Luella, junior guard Britney Guy scored 13 points.