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FPCA punches ticket to GISA Final Four
Highlanders beat LaGrange 68-51
FPCA's Khalyn Weekley goes for a lay-up against LaGrange Academy during a GISA state quarterfinal game Saturday at Bradwell Institute's gym. - photo by Photo by John Wood

FPCA  19     13     11    25-68  
LA      13    12      13    13-51                   

FPCA- George Mitchell 20, Trayvon Harris 10, Khaylan Weekley 10, John Killough 10, Simon Steele 10, Isaiah Scott 8.

Highlander shooting guard George Mitchell was all over the floor against LaGrange Academy in the 68-51 First Presbyterian Christian Academy win in a GISA state quarterfinal game at the Bradwell Institute gym. 

Mitchell grabbed the tip and fed a bounce pass to teammate to Khaylan Weekley, who put in a lay-up off the glass for the ’Landers’ first bucket of the game. Mitchell also forced turnovers off the press and orienteered the transition game and led all FPCA scorers with 20 points.

"The first quarter, everything was pretty good for us. We were moving the basketball and scoring on offense, and defensively we were doing a good job on the press creating turnovers and disrupting their chance to get the ball down the court and create scoring opportunities inside," FPCA head coach Shane Smith said.

Playing with three players at 6 feet, 6 inches, LaGrange had a decided height advantage over the Highlanders and began to find its stride. Though FPCA neutralized the opponents with a quick trapping full court press early, LaGrange slowed down its press breaker and both teams settled into bolstering the inside game led by Highlanders center John Killough and LaGrange's Whit Marmore. 

FPCA ended up turning over the ball while trying to score quickly off the dribble. While gaining a few baskets off of transition, FPCA's offense went off the grid for the last four minutes of the first half. Trailing by six points after the first quarter, LaGrange started hitting shots all over the floor, and the Highlanders only led 32-25 at the half. 

"The game plan was working, but in the second quarter and some of the third, we started to try and move the ball to quickly creating turnovers. We were getting good shots off of the dribble, but they weren't falling because we weren't using the backboard. LaGrange spread us out defensively and was able to really open the inside game," Smith said.

Mitchell buried a 3 from the left of the floor at the six-minute mark of the third quarter for the ’Landers first points since the for-minute mark of the second quarter. Both teams continued to pound each other for every point in the third quarter. 

"The biggest thing that we stressed at the half was to calm down and play our game. The press worked and our strategy to go at their inside players and get them in foul trouble, which we did in the fourth quarter," Smith said.

With FPCA clinging to a three-point lead, Simon Steele drew a foul as he attempted a last second 3-pointer. Steele hit 2 of 3 free throws to give the Highlanders a 43-37 lead.

"We kept playing hard and stayed with the game plan where we finally got a little bit of a lead and pulled the ball to take some time off the clock. I knew once we started to do that, we could score any way we wanted to," Smith said.

In the last three minutes of the game, Mitchell had a pair of lay-ups. Despite the miscues and missed baskets, the Highlanders showed they could finish. 

"I am really proud of how well we played in the fourth quarter. We had players that played the whole second half that had three and four fouls. Fortunately, we have some strong bench play so we are able to rest players if we get in foul trouble too bad. We controlled the ball and hit our free throws down the stretch," Smith said.

FPCA whipped the ball around the court until an entry pass zipped into Trayvon Harris for a lay-up kissed off of the glass and into the net, taking two minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter. The Highlanders were 6 for 6 in the final minutes from the charity stripe and finished 20 for 29 for the game.

Weekley, Steele, Harris, and Killough finished with 10 points each. Isaiah Scott put in eight points.

FPCA moves to the Final Four against Windsor Academy on Thursday in Macon. It's the third trip to the Final Four for Smith since he became the Highlanders’ head coach three seasons ago.

"We played Windsor before Christmas. They beat us by 20, but we are a totally different team now than we were when we first played them, so we are going to be ready for them," Smith said.

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