Lanett boys end season in regional semifinal loss to Sand Rock

Published 8:39 pm Friday, February 17, 2023

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The Lanett boys saw their season end Friday in a 68-63 loss to Sand Rock in a regional game at Jacksonville State University.

Lanett senior Elijah Whitfield left everything on the line  in his final game as he put up 29 points, eight rebounds, six steals and five assists.

Lanett head coach Tay McCants is proud of how his team battled despite the loss.

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“I don’t have the words right now,” McCants said.

“I’m so proud of these guys right here. At the beginning of the season, a lot of people counted us out. If you look at our record, we played a lot of 6A and 7A schools. It kind of helps us coast through 2A, but as you see tonight, we got the short end of the stick. I have two eighth graders and five freshmen, so 65% of my team are babies. I’m so proud of this team.”

The first quarter was a battle between Lanett’s high pressure defense and Sand Rock’s perimeter shooting.

The game opened with Sand Rock’s Kaden Justice hitting a three, but Lanett’s Jarrious Goodman responded with his own jumper.

Justice scored all of Sand Rock’s first five points, but it was a back and forth battle as neither team could get its offense going.

Just when it looked like the Wildcats were going to end the quarter with a lead, Jr. Bynum hit a buzzer beater three to give the Panthers a 15-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Neither team shot well in the second quarter, but Lanett opened up with an Elijah Whitfield three and a Bynum free throw to give the Panthers a 19-15 lead, their largest of the half.

Sand Rock was able to bounce back with four consecutive free throws, and neither team was able to take a steady lead.

Both teams shot 24% in the first half, and they went into halftime tied at 21.

Whitfield led the Panthers in scoring with 10 while Justice led the Wildcats with 11.

Whitfield also added five rebounds.

The biggest difference in the first half was Lanett only making 40% of its free throws while Sand Rock made 87.5%.

The Panthers did hold a good three point shooting team to an 18.2% three-point percentage in the first half.

Both offenses opened up in the third quarter, but Sand Rock’s perimeter shooting started giving the Panthers trouble while Sand Rock was able to force Lanett to commit several offensive fouls.

It was back and forth until three minutes left in the third quarter when Jacob St. Clair hit a three and Ben Dale hit a jumper to give the Wildcats a 36-28 lead.

The Panthers were able to cut the lead to 40-36 at the end of the third quarter, but Whitfield was the only Panther to produce on offense.

The Wildcats were able to break through traps and make shots when needed.

The Panthers also committed 27 team fouls compared to Sand Rock’s 18.

Lanett was never able to close the lead in the fourth quarter as Whitfield and Bynum were hitting shots, but Sand Rock shot 16 of 19 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter alone.

Free throws ended up being the difference maker as Sand Rock hit 86.2% of its shots from the line while Lanett only shot 56.3% from the charity stripe.

Bynum was the second leading scorer for the Panthers with 17 points.