By Josh Holland
For the Forsyth County News
Denmark's boys basketball team trailed towards the end of the first quarter in its first-round playoff matchup with LaGrange on Saturday, but after Sutton Smith hit a three in transition that he immediately followed with an and-one layup, the Danes held a three point lead to end the opening period. They held on for the rest of the game to win 68-62 and advance to the second round of the 4A basketball state playoffs.
The game opened with high intensity from both sides as both teams went back and forth on the offensive end. Three dunks fueled the energy of the game early on beginning, with Adonnis Tolbert finishing off a missed layup with a putback slam in transition. Later, Robert Cowherd posterized a LaGrange defender off a baseline drive, which was immediately followed by LaGrange’s Javon Brown throwing down a dunk of his own.
After the game, Denmark head coach Tyler Whitlock explained how his team prepares for games that are played at such a fast pace.
“We do it every day in practice," he said. "Every
practice that we have is high intensity. We get after each other so we’re used to this atmosphere. We were lucky last year to make a run so we’re used to this kind of atmosphere. We don’t get rattled by that.”
The second quarter was more sloppy as both teams made careless errors and turned the ball over. However, the Danes were still able to take a 30-28 lead into the locker room at the half thanks to two late threes from Joseph Scott.
The opening play of the second half defined the third quarter, with Smith finding Tolbert for an alley-oop to get the crowd back in the game. Denmark went on a run and held a nine-point advantage over LaGrange heading into the fourth quarter.
As LaGrange started to come back, it lost starting point guard Jakobe Jones, who picked up five fouls with six minutes left in the game. The Grangers managed to find scorers elsewhere and tied the game one minute later thanks to three free throws from DJ Burks, who was crucial in the their comeback.
Denmark took care of the ball in the final minutes and made stops on the defensive end to close out the win. Smith was perfect from the free throw line in the fourth quarter and only missed one shot from the line for the game.
The Danes improve their overall record 23-5 after the close win, and will host Burke County in the second round.