Pleasant Grove squads drive toward playoffs

Pleasant Grove’s boys and girls both stayed in first place in District 14-4A by posting double-digit over the Atlanta Friday night at Hawk gym.

The Lady Hawks (17-7, 6-1) raced out to a 18-2 lead and cruised home to a 58-37 win over the Lady Rabbits, who were playing without a starting guard. The boys (18-4, 5-0) trailed until Luke Harmon hit a three-pointer to put them up by a point with less than two minutes play in the first half, but dominated after intermission to throttle the Rabbs, 62-44.

Pleasant Grove will host Pittsburg’s basketball teams Tuesday, with varsity action starting around 5:30 p.m.

 

Sha’Nequa Henry brings the ball upcourt against the Atlanta Lady Rabbits.

Lady Hawks 58, Atlanta 37

Pleasant Grove played its game, controlling the boards, playing aggressive defense and executing its methodical offense to stay in a first-place tie with Liberty-Eylau, which whacked North Lamar Friday, 48-33. Atlanta, the only other district team with a winning record at 4-3, remained in sole possession of third place.

The Hawks’ senior forwards, Madeline Haak and Monique Walker, led the fast start, pouring in six points apiece in the first stanza.

Ashanti Levingston went high above the crowd to snag a rebound and kicked it out to Walker, who drained a three to make it a 15-2 game at the 2:38 mark of the first.

“It was a business-like win for us, but give Atlanta credit, they were without one of their best players and they still got after it,” said PG coach Jason Boston. “We needed a win, so we needed to take care of business, and we did.”

Haak was the game’s leading scorer with 16 points, and Walker had 11. Sha’Nequa Henry had 10, and Abby Hines had nine, as did Macy Young, who came off the bench.

Indeed, the Hawk bench had a strong night. Don’Teshia Mixon and Noni Hilley both contributed significant minutes and made key offensive and defensive plays.

The lead was at 15 midway through the second period when Young hit a three and followed that with a layup off a pass from Henry. Haak followed that with a put-back jumper and a drive to the basket for two more to allow the Lady Hawks to open a 38-8 lead at intermission.

The Rabbits warmed up in the second half. Shevonia Smith scored seven points in the third and fourth quarters, while Amber Adams had six of her nine points and Brittany Collins scored 10 of her 12 after the half.

Still, the closest Atlanta could get was within 14 points.

Landon Jackson puts up a shot. Photo by Kevin Cook.

Hawks 62, Atlanta 44

Atlanta came into the contest winless in district play but looked like a title contender for most of the first half, when the Hawks were cold and the Rabbs were not.

“We’re a run-and-gun team, but Atlanta did a good job forcing us to play at their pace in the first half,” said PG coach Billy Brewer

A long three-pointer by Farron Hall, followed by a short-range jumper helped Atlanta build a quick 7-1 lead.

The Hawks, who shot around 33 percent in the first half, finally started to come alive at 3:48 mark of the first quarter, when Griffin Young spotted Xaxier Benson breaking free under the basket. The senior forward went high above the rim for a power dunk that brought the fullsome home crowd to its feet.

Kameron Woods battles for the ball against Atlanta Friday at Hawk Gym. Photo by Kevin Cook.

Early in the second quarter, Benson stole a pass, fired it to Young, who whipped the ball to Aaron Harmon for a layup to close the margin to 14-12.

As the half drew to a close, Pleasant Grove trailed by four when Benson hit Aaron’s brother, Luke Harmon, for an open jumper to make it 21-19.

The Hawks had at least 10 good looks from outside the line, but only Young had managed to get one to fall. That started to change when Luke Harmon followed his jumper by dropping in a net-only rainbow from 30 feet with 1:51 remaining to give the Hawks their first lead, 22-21.

Kameron Woods, PG’s leading scorer with 13 points, hit another trey with four seconds showing to give PG a 25-22 halftime lead.

It would never be that close again.

“We came out playing a lot better in the second half than we did in the first,” Brewer said. “The kids stayed focus on what they were doing. We’re coming together.”

Benson, who finished with 10 points, lit the fuse. Less than 30 seconds into the second half he drove to the basket, sank his shot and drew a foul. He completed the three-point play to make it a 28-22.

Benson followed that with another inside bucket to ignite a 10-0 PG run.

One of a half-dozen players who joined the team after winning a state football championship a month ago, and who have now played 10 games on the court, Benson said his play is beginning to improve for a simple reason.

“I’m starting to get into basketball shape,” the Texas Tech commit said after the game, “but I’m still tired.”

The PG cheerleaders are in high spirits.

Aaron Harmon, another football player, kept the offensive outburst going with a put-back bucket. Next, Woods drove the lane, drew the foul and sank both free throws, then stole the ball and drove for a layup. Yong followed all that with a three-pointer as PG shot out to a 39-26 lead.

The Hawks poured it on. With the Landon brothers, freshman Landon and sophomore Layton, on the court, PG dialed up the defensive pressure, dominated the boards, and started hitting shots.

One reason for the second-half surge was the Hawks’ bench depth, much of it made up of players who posted a winning mark before the football players arrived.

“We got tired,” said Atlanta coach Jarrod Boston, brother of Jason. “Our two best players just got worn out. We’re young, and we just didn’t take care of the ball well in the second half and we got frustrated because there are no 10-point shots, but Pleasant Grove just keeps coming at you.”

The third Harmon brother, Ben, hit a three to make it 49-30, and Layton Landon dropped in a trey from the left corner to complete a 24-8 run and give the Hawks a 22-point lead.

Atlanta’s Charlie Powell, who led all scorers with 17 points, hit on a couple three-pointers to get Atlanta back within 10 before Aaron Harmon, Woods, and Luke Bunel closed out the scoring with an 8-0 run.

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A veteran journalist and educator, Bill Owney is a 1980 graduate of the University of Florida. Writing awards include APME honors for investigative reporting, the Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Award for public service reporting and numerous awards for editorial, column and news writing. He served as publisher of the Atlanta Citizens Journal and Pittsburg Gazette when each paper won sweepstakes awards from the Texas Press and North and East Texas Press Associations. He spent 15 years as a public school teacher and is an adjunct professor of English at Texarkana College.

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