Rutland struggled with the biggest teams in GHSA Region 2-AAAA.
The Hurricanes four regular-season losses came to the three tallest teams in the region, and two came against Veterans, their opponent in the region championship game Saturday.
Head coach Ron Christian emphasized blocking out throughout the week-long tournament, and the result was an exorcism of demons for the Hurricanes.
Rutland completed a revenge tour of sorts Saturday night with a 65-46 win over the Warhawks in the region championship game. The victory followed wins over West Laurens and Westside -- the other two teams to beat Rutland in region play -- in the region tournament. Both Rutland and Veterans will host Class AAAA playoff games when the tournament begins Saturday.
Coach just kept talking about boxing out and playing hard, senior Shakenneth Williams said.
Williams led Rutland with 18, while Jaylon Tyson added 14 and Dallas Smith scored 10. Shazier Lawson led Veterans with 15, and Mike Leger added 10.
The Hurricanes controlled the game in the second half, sprinting to an eight-point lead early in the third quarter.
After Veterans cut Rutlands lead to five points on a 3-pointer by Lawson, the Hurricanes answered by scoring the final six points of the third quarter and the first three points of the fourth for a 14-point advantage. Veterans never got closer than 12 the rest of the game.
Veterans closed to 12 as late as with five minutes to play, but Williams leaked out behind the defense and scored on three consecutive layups to push his teams lead to 18.
We couldnt take it easy because no one really dies in this region, said Christian, who remembered his team lost a sizeable lead against Veterans a few weeks back.
Veterans struggled at the foul line for the second straight night, missing two front ends and five free throws total in the fourth quarter.
The first half stayed competitive throughout.
The teams traded baskets in the second quarter, which saw 10 ties or lead changes. Saturdays game wasnt quite as dramatic as last years Region 2-AAAA championship game when Tylik Evans hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Westside.
It really means a lot to the seniors to close out with two straight region championships, Jaylon Tyson said. We want to keep playing for a few more weeks.