By Brian Paglia
Henry County senior Larrentis Thomas took the ball from the top of the key and dribbled the ball into the lane, saw Eagle's Landing defenders collapse on him and flipped a pass out to Phillip Staples in the corner. Staples sunk a three-pointer, igniting the home crowd.
On the next possession, Thomas followed the same script. He drove into the lane, passed off to Dontavious Bega behind the arc and watched as another 3 fell for the Warhawks.
Thomas did a little bit of everything in seventh-ranked Henry County's 84-68 win over No. 9 Eagle's Landing on Tuesday in a Region 4-AAA win. Coming off a 10-day hiatus from basketball, Thomas was dominant with 28 points, 16 rebounds and four assists in a crisp performance by the Warhawks.
"We didn't play down to the competition," Thomas said, "and we just hustled. Pretty much that's what got us the win."
Tuesday's game was supposed to be a compelling third meeting between both teams. Henry County won the first match-up in early December for a region victory, only to lose to the Golden Eagles in the championship game of their own Chuck Miller Classic holiday tournament. Eagle's Landing entered just a game behind Henry County and with the confidence of a nine-game winning streak and the program's first-ever top-10 ranking.
But the game was affected from the start when Eagle's Landing sophomore center Desmond Ringer went down with a knee injury on the game's first possession. Ringer didn't return with what Golden Eagles coach Clay Crump said was a bad sprain and will be out two weeks.
Without the presence of Ringer's 6-foot-9 frame in the middle of the lane, Henry County (12-3, 7-1) easily dictated its fast-paced style of play, pressuring the Golden Eagles into 17 turnovers in the first half that led to numerous scoring opportunities.
"Desmond (Ringer) was a big part of their offense and defense," Henry County coach Vincent Rosser said, "but I was just proud of our guys stepping up and playing with the same intensity whether he was in there or not. We were going to do what we do. Sometimes he may be a defensive presence, but even with him I think our guys really came focused and ready to play."
The Warhawks could do little wrong Tuesday night. Seven different players combined to make 11 three-pointers. Henry County got scoring contributions from 11 different players. Though Aaron Horton hit a 3 coming out of halftime to cut Henry County's lead to 10 at 45-35, the Warhawks promptly went on a 20-5 run to open up a 25-point lead and never look back.
Dontavious Bega added 14 points, three steals and two assists for Henry County.
Horton led Eagle's Landing (11-3, 5-3) with 20 points and three steals, Isaiah Dennis had 15 points and four blocks and Eric Wortham added eight points and 12 rebounds.