The third time was charm for the Laney boys.
After making it the state semifinals for the third year in a row, Laney won the Class AA state championship with a convincing 67-53 win over Manchester on Saturday night.
It was the first-ever basketball state championship for the Laney boys (28-4), which had four players score in double figures: Jammie West with 20, Daniel Harris with 12, and Shaquille Cook and Glenn Rodriquez with 10 each.
“It’s an accomplishment, and these guys, man … they really, really, really displayed courage and heart,” Laney coach Jerry Hunter said.
‘After making it to the Final Four twice [and losing in the semifinals], we made sure to let them to know our goal was to make it the state championship this year. Then once we did that, we told them getting to the state championship and not winning it is not enough.
“We let them know they could make history for Laney High School. And they did.”
Laney overwhelmed Manchester with its pressure defense and athleticism. Manchester (23-3), which knocked off two-time defending state champion GAC in the quarterfinals, struggled offensively until it was too late.
“We came in knowing that Laney was a physical team, and they were; they really took it to us,” Manchester coach Curtis Echols said. “They played really good defense. Laney has been here three years in a row. They really showed like they wanted it, and played like it tonight.”
Laney had a comfortable 10-point lead at halftime and expanded it 20 points in the fourth quarter by the time Manchester got a spark on offense. Manchester’s Zay Echols scored a game-high 29 points, including five 3-pointers and a total of 17 points in the final period. No other Manchester player finished with more than 4 points.
With 3:03 left in the fourth quarter, Echols drilled a 3-pointer that banked off the backboard to cut Laney’s lead to 56-48 but Manchester never got closer.
“We never quit,” Echols said. “I challenged them right there to keep fighting. I’m proud of them for coming back and fighting like they did.”
“Manchester is a real good ballclub,” Hunter said. “We were waiting for that run. We made sure we had that cushion before they made their run. And thank God we had a 20-point lead when they started knocking down 3’s.”
Laney won the state championship with only one returning starter from last year, point guard Raheem Newton.