Special to Daily
It was supposed to be a walk-over for the Eagles Landing Golden Eagles. On paper, that is.
They don't play the games on paper.
The Locust Grove Wildcats battled and battled, before finally wilting under the pressure and athleticism of Eagles Landing, as the Golden Eagles rode a huge opening of the fourth quarter spurt to a 65-48 victory in Region 4-AAA action.
It was the eighth win a row for the surging and improving Eagles (10-2, 5-2), while Locust Grove (6-9, 3-4) dropped its fifth in a row. In the opener the Eagles Landing Lady Eagles (4-6, 4-2) built a 34-10 halftime lead and coasted past the Locust Grove Lady Wildcats (3-12, 0-7) a score of 64-29.
Alexis Smith was the Lady Eagles sharpshooter with four triples in the second half as part of her game-high 19 points. Amanda Winters was the high scorer for the Lady Cats with eight. Twelve third quarter turnovers doomed any hopes of Locust Grove getting back into the game. Makalah Joseph's eight points and Smith's three threes led the Eagles Landing third quarter rally that prompted the decision to shorten the fourth quarter to six minutes.
Apparently no one told Locust Grove that Eagles Landing was the heavy favorite on this night. While the Golden Eagles missed several first period shots (only 3 baskets in 14 tries) and committed six turnovers, the Wildcats played a patient game, aided Javon Harris' two three-balls. The scoreboard showed 11-8 for the visiting Wildcats after eight minutes. Surprised?
Locust Grove even surged to a 21-14 lead in the second, riding an 8-0 run and some more long-range bombing Harris and Keinan Wise. More surprised? The Eagles tied the game at 21 and finally edged in front 27-23, capping a 13-2 spurt. However, a baseline six-footer Jordan Dukes cut the lead to 27-25 at intermission, and Locust Grove still had a solid shot at this one.
Slowly but surely Eagles Landing grew the lead in the third, but the score was only 44-37 after three periods. Then came the explosion. Kaboom! With steals and dunks and fastbreaks, Eagles Landing just blew Locust Grove. It was an opening 10-0 run that led to the game's biggest lead at 59-39 before coach Clay Crump did a full line change with three minutes to go. It ended as it was supposed to end on paper, but the Eagles had much more of a battle than they expected from the spunky Wildcats.
Locust Grove's guards led the way for the Wildcats. Harris ended with 13 points (three triples) and Wise finished with 11 (also three triples). Dukes grabbed 12 rebounds, and Jessie Jenkins dished three assists.
Eagles Landing's leaper Isaiah Dennis flew around the rim with alley-oop baskets and offensive putbacks, scoring 16 points, collecting 8 rebounds, and handing out four assists. Big man Desmond Ringer (6'8") also had eight rebounds to go with his 14 points. Keith Colquitt scored 14 as well for the Eagles.