KATHLEEN -- Eagles Landing jumped out to a 14-point lead against a cold-shooting Veterans team and withstood a late push to take a 80-64 win Saturday in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAA tournament.
Georgia State signee Jordan Sessions shook off a slow start to lead the way for Eagles Landing with 21 points, including 19 in the second half, and Rodriguez Dennis added 15. Shazier Lawson led the Warhawks with 22.
I was pleased that we came out with such intensity, but we have to do a much better job of closing teams out, Eagles Landing head coach Eric Wortham said. But at this time of year, any win is a good win, and we are pleased to go on the road and play as well as we did.
Both teams seemed to battle nerves early, as the first score of the game did not come until the 4:20 mark of the first quarter, Veterans managed only two points the entire quarter on a basket by Lawson. It was 3-2 with only two minutes left in the first quarter, but Darius Howard came off the bench for the Eagles and hit two straight 3-pointers to give them a 9-2 lead at the end of the quarter.
Eagles Landing (21-5) scored the first seven points of the second quarter to make it 16-2, but Veterans finally showed a little life, mainly behind Lawson, who scored 10 of the 14 points that Veterans scored in the second quarter. Meanwhile Eagles Landing, after building a 22-6 lead, hit another cold spell, allowing the Warhawks to trim the deficit to 24-16 at the half.
I thought were very fortunate to only be down eight with the poor start that we had, said Veterans head coach Chris Kothe, who has seven seniors on his roster. I know that we werent scared of playing the defending state champions. We had a great week of practice, and we felt like we were ready, but sometimes those things just happen.
Unfortunately for Veterans, Eagles Landing played like the state champion in the third quarter, scoring 30 points while holding the Warhawks to only 13. When Nick Hargrove closed the quarter out with a 3-pointer, the Eagles had a 54-29 lead.
There was no way we were not going to give it all we had, and we never stopped fighting even though we were down so much, said Kothe, whose team finished 17-11. These seniors should be proud of themselves because they have left Veterans basketball in a very good place.