JACKSON – Not many people gave the Grenada Chargers much of a chance to make it to the State Tournament, much less play for a state championship.
Now, they have done both.
Wednesday, the Chargers added the latter to their resume, but it didn’t look like that was going to happen early in the game against Provine in the opening round of the Class 6A Tournament at the Mississippi Coliseum.
The game went back and forth in the second half with no team leading by more than six points. Grenada was able to get the lead to nine points in the final two minutes and held on for a 67-61 win over the Rams.
With the win, GHS improves to 23-11 overall. They earn the right to play for their first state championship since 1986. Grenada last won a title in 1985.
Provine ends the season at 22-7.
It took the Chargers nearly three minutes to get their first field goal as they trailed 10-1 early. GHS trailed 23-10 at the end of the first quarter before rallying for a 32-31 halftime lead.
“These guys have defied the odds all season,” Coach Jaworski Rankin said. “The paper in Jackson picked Provine to win. Nobody gave us much of a chance. We were able to come in here and prove them wrong.”
Rankin, who is in his third season at Grenada, attributed the slow start to a case of nerves and a need to change the defensive approach. The Chargers settled down and played better for the final 20 minutes of the contest.
“I thought we were nervous early,” Rankin said. “None of our guys have played in this building. We just needed to make a basket early and stay within distance. When we did, I thought we began to settle down and play.”
On the defensive side, Grenada opened in a Triangle and Two defense, which is man defense on two players and zone the rest. Provine took advantage of the defense until GHS switched to a 2-3 zone.
“We saw that they were hurting us in the Triangle and Two and elected to go to more of a zone look,” Rankin said. “Heading into the game, we knew they had one really good shooter. We wanted to force them to take bad shots.”
On the offensive side, Grenada thought they could hurt Provine with transition baskets. That proved to be another factor in the game.
“We were able to attack them in transition and get some baskets,” Rankin said. “Watching tape, we saw them not getting back on defense. We told our guys to attack their trap and take the ball to the basket.”
Rankin talked about input his players gave about what was going on during the game.
“Our guys were into the game from the start,” Rankin said. “We would ask them what they felt best about doing at that time in the game. That really worked out.”
Trailing 10-1, Trey Spencer converted a three-point play to cut the deficit to 10-4. The Chargers got within 12-6 on a Tyrin Jones bucket midway through the period.
Provine scored seven straight points to lead 19-6. Jonathan Thomas’ bucket at the buzzer gave the Rams a 23-10 heading into the second period.
GHS makes run
The Chargers opened the second period with eight straight points to cut the margin to 23-18. Jones had four points that came on a bucket and three-point play chance. The senior missed the free throw but rebounded the shot and scored. Spencer added a three-pointer during the run.
Grenada got its first lead of the game with a 13-0 run in a three-minute stretch. Jones scored eight points during the run including one with 1:44 left in the half to give GHS a 31-25 advantage. The Rams scored six of the final seven points of the half and trailed 32-31 at intermission.
The teams traded a pair of buckets to start the second half. Jay Dorsey scored with 2:49 left in the third period to give GHS a 41-35 lead.
Provine cut into the lead as D’Angelo West hit two free throws to make it 44-43 with 19.7 seconds left in the period. Joniah White scored with 9.2 left to give Grenada a 46-43 lead heading into the final period of play.
In the final period, Spencer hit a free throw with 5:47 left to give the Chargers a 51-47 lead. This was part of an 8-0 run by Grenada to help the Chargers to a 56-47 lead with 4:27 left in the game.
Grenada would lead by nine on three other occasions in the final four minutes. A long three-pointer from West with eight seconds left cut the GHS lead to 66-61. White closed out the scoring with a free throw.
The Chargers shot 54.5-percent in the second half, hitting 12-22 shots. For the game, GHS was 23-49 (46.4 percent).
Jones paced the Chargers with 23 points and nine rebounds. White had 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocked shots. Allen chipped in 10 points, and Dorris finished with nine points. Spencer scored eight points, and Jay Dorsey added four points. Tyrus Black scored a point.
West had 23 points to lead the Rams. Provine was 26-70 (37.1) from the field.
Grenada turns its attention to playing for its first state title in 29 years Saturday at 8 p.m. against Gulfport. The two teams met last weekend at Starkville with the Jaguars winning a 46-45 decision.
“Being able to play for a state championship is every player’s dream,” Rankin said. “I know our guys will be ready to go.”