STARKVILLE – It’s been eight years since the Grenada High School boys’ basketball team has qualified for the State Tournament.
This past weekend, the Chargers faced the tough task of playing Starkville High School for the right to go back to the Mississippi Coliseum. The Jackets brought a 24-4 mark into the game in a place where they almost never lose.
Friday, Grenada put together arguably its best game of the season and down Starkville 61-43 to punch their ticket to the facility called “The Big House.”
The win sent the Chargers into the North 6A title game Saturday against Madison Central. It was the second game of the season between the two schools.
Grenada had a seven-point lead late in the third period against the Jaguars, who are coached by former GHS Coach Rahim Lockhart. Madison Central used a 10-0 run late in the period to take the lead.
In the final period, the game went back and forth with both teams having chances. When the buzzer sounded, Madison Central emerged with a 46-45 win.
With the weekend, Grenada stands at 22-11 on the season. The Chargers face Provine, the South champion, in the opening round of the Class 6A Tournament. That game will be played Mar. 12 at 2:30 p.m. The winner of the game plays the winner of the Madison Central-Gulfport game Mar. 15 at 8 p.m. for the state title.
“Our guys were able to accomplish our goal of making the state tournament,” Coach Jaworski Rankin said. “In the finals, we felt like it was a game that we should have won. We had our chances but didn’t take care of business. Down the stretch, we didn’t play very smart. Overall, we are glad to being go to the state tournament.”
Turnovers were a problem for the Chargers throughout the game with the Jaguars. Madison Central was able to turn the miscues into points and cause the Grenada problems offensively.
“We didn’t take care of the ball during the game,” Rankin said. “It’s been a problem for us through the season. Offensively, we didn’t execute well and part of that was them and you have to give them credit.”
Never more was the turnover problem brought out than in the final two minutes of the third period.
LaCurtis Allen followed Trey Spencer’s bucket with two free throws to put Grenada ahead 32-25 with 1:56 left in the period. That’s when things got bad.
The Jaguars scored 10 straight points in the final minute of the period. Seven of the points came off turnovers as Madison Central led 35-32 heading into the final eight minutes.
Shun Buchanan and Leroy Buchanan each had five points on the run.
Tyler Dorris hit a three-pointer with 6:10 left that tied the game at 35-35. A minute later Leroy Buchanan put the Jaguars on top with a bucket, making it 37-35. Tyrin Jones answered with one free throw as GHS trailed 37-36 with 4:52 left. The teams traded buckets keeping the Madison Central lead at a point with 4:19 left. Keenan Barnes scored to give MC a 41-38 lead. Joniah White got the Chargers back within one with a pair of free throws.
Dorris scored to give Grenada a 42-41 lead with 2:37 left in the game. The teams traded missed shots and turnovers for the next minute before Madison Central regained the lead at 43-42 following two free throws from Chase Carroll with 1:10 left.
The Chargers had two chances down a point after the Jaguars failed to convert free throw chances. Both times, Grenada had a turnover in the front court, the last coming with 36.4 seconds left. That turnover was big as Leroy Buchanan turned it into points and a 45-42 lead with 30.4 seconds remaining.
Allen missed the front end of a free throw opportunity. Grenada had to foul and Madison converted one of the two free throws to lead 46-42. Allen hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to account for the final margin.
Allen led GHS with 17 points. White scored 10 and Jones finished with nine. Dorris finished with seven and Spencer scored two.
The opening period was close throughout with three ties. Grenada led 10-8 after the first quarter.
In the second period, Allen had a free throw and Tyler Dorris scored, giving Grenada a 17-16 lead with 3:44 left in the half. Madison scored the final four points of the period to lead 20-17 at halftime.
Against the Jackets, Grenada came out of the gate quick against the host team.
With the score tied at 5-5, Grenada used a 12-2 run to lead 17-7 at the end of the first period.
“I thought our defense was outstanding against Starkville,” Rankin said. “Our kids felt like we had something to prove against the team that was picked in the preseason to win the state title. It was a great win for our program.”
The Chargers got the lead out to as much as 25-8 with 2:56 left in the half. Starkville close the gap with a 10-4 run as GHS led 29-18 at halftime.
In the second half, the Jackets got as close as 33-27 with 4:50 left in the third period. Grenada used a 9-2 run to take a 42-29 lead at the 1:35. Jones’ free throws with 27.2 left made it 44-32 at the end of the third period.
The Chargers broke the game open with a 10-0 run to start the final period.
Jones led Grenada with 22 points. Allen and Spencer each had 10 points. White scored nine.