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Langston Hughes Escapes River Ridge Dagger, Advances To Semis With 53-51 Win

Langston Hughes' John McQueen (#23) being guarded by River Ridges' Jay McCad (#1)

On Wednesday, the Georgia High School Association basketball state championship tournament continued with round of eight match ups taking place throughout the state. North of Atlanta, in Woodstock, the River Ridge Knights, played host to the Langston Hughes Panthers, as both teams looked to punch their ticket into the final four.

Feeding off the energy of the home crowd, the Knights would get off quickly with both their near seven footers, Jared Russo (14 pts) and Braden Pierce (9 pts) would get to working in the post early for River Ridge as they would take a 9-5 lead. But down the stretch of the opening period, the Panthers would outscore the Knights 9-5, including a buzzer beating 3-point basket by Kobe Davis (19 pts) that would tie the game 14 all at the end of the period.

The second quarter would metaphorically resemble the final seconds of a heavy weight boxing match as the two teams traded runs at each other. Outscoring the Knights 13-8 to start the period, Langston Hughes would take a 29-22 lead, but River Ridge would not lose their composure and would outscore the Panthers 8-2 to close out the period with a 30-29 lead at the half. It would be in the third quarter in which the Panthers were really in control as they would outscore River Ridge 11-4 in the period and would have a 40-34 lead heading into the final period of play.

That would be when River Ridge’s Trey Hopf (15 pts) would go into a zone knocking down three 3-point baskets in the period to help the Knights tie the game at 49 all late in the game. However, a crucial foul by the Knights with the game tied at 51 all with just under 40 seconds to go in the game, would send Randy Latham to the free throw line where he would go 2-2, putting the Panthers back up 53-51. Later, the Knights would get a final shot, a three point basket attempt, which would have given them the lead, but they miss as the Panthers would come up with the rebound to secure the win.

“That was just one of those games where, somebody had to win,” Langston Hughes head coach Rory Welsh said after the game, giving River Ridge all their props due for their efforts and fight in Wednesday’s game. Recognizing that his team could have very easily been on the opposite end of the outcome, Welsh acknowledged that the Panthers “caught a break at the end” after they turned the ball over attempting to inbound and that led to the Knights getting that final shot, “definitely a big win for us,” Welsh said.

Now, with the Panthers locked into the GHSA 6A semi-finals this weekend, where they will face Grovetown, Welsh says that one of the areas they will focus on over the next couple of days will be for them to not be “sloppy in crunch time,” pointing out that in Wednesday’s game, the Panthers had situations in which poor decision making led to either turnovers or missed shots. “Situational basketball is going to be huge going into the final four,” Welsh said. The Panthers and Grovetown will tipoff at 8PM on Saturday at University of West Georgia.


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