LaGrange pulled away to beat Covenant 91-75 in a USA South game Friday night in Mariotti Gym. The win moved the Panthers into a tie for second in the West Division standings with a 6-4 mark. They are now 10-7 overall after winning for the fifth time in the last six games.
"I love my team. They're playing great and I'm very proud of my guys," said Coach Kendal Wallace. "They stick together as a team. For us to be where we are it has taken 1 through 16 on our bench to do that. Everybody has contributed throught out the season.
"It was very important for us to keep the tempo up in the game. We wanted to attack the basket as much as possible. In the second half, we had a couple of guys come in and shot the ball very well. Very fortunate to get this win and a big USA South win for us."
Travis Thompson led all scorers with 22 points, while Alex Bonner added 20. Jack McCormack tied his career high with 14 second half points, including hitting two key 3-pointers. Elijah Adedoyin finished with 11 points.
The difference in the game came at the free throw line. The Panthers shot 85.3 percent at the charity stripe, making 29-of-34. Covenant (8-8, 3-5 USA South) was just 11-of-21 at the line.
"Recently, we haven't shot free throws well. We were shooting 64 percent as a team and we wanted to emphasize that," pointed out Wallace. "We wanted to make sure that we get points off the things we are supposed to get points off of. Our guys have done a much better job focusing and staying mentally alert while at the free throw line as well as what to do offensively to get to the free throw line as much as possible."
The Panthers led 37-31 at halftime. The Scots scored the first 10 points of the second half. Bonner answered for the Panthers with six straight points, starting a 12-0 run. LC never trailed again.
Covenant drew within three points twice. Each time, McCormack hit a 3-pointer to keep the Scots at bay. He was fouled on the second one and completed the four-point play for a 74-67 lead with 4:50 left. McCormack's treys were the only ones of the game for the Panthers, who had a season-low six 3-point attempts.
The Scots came into the game as the second best 3-point shooting team in the conference, but were just of 4-for-20. The Panthers' last two opponents are just 4-for-29 from 3-point range.
After McCormack's four-point play the Panthers finished the game on a 21-8 run. LC was a perfect 11-for-11 at the line in the closing minutes. In the second half, the Panthers shot 69.2 percent from the floor, making 18-of-26 shots.
The Panthers host Brevard in a non-conference game Saturday starting at 5 p.m.