Pleasant Grove assured No. 1 playoff seed

Griffin Young looks for the open man.

In a bruising and contentious affair, Pleasant Grove slipped past North Lamar, 46-43, Friday night at Hawk Gym to lay claim to its first District 14-4A championship in four years and a No. 1 seed heading into the state playoffs.

The Hawks rode a tenacious defensive effort and balanced scoring from Aaron Harmon, Kameron Woods, Xavier Benson and Griffin Young to 20-5, 7-2 in the district, leaving them one game ahead of Paris with one to play. Pleasant Grove holds the tiebreaker thanks to a season sweep of the Wildcats.

“The guys knew what was on the table and came out and played great defensively,” said PG coach Billy Brewer. “We were blessed to pull this game out. The crowd did a fantastic job of pumping us up.”

Friday’s was the final home game for seniors Luke Bunel, Aaron and Luke Harmon, June Hee Heo, Tevrin Jackson, Young and Benson. All made contributions.

Aaron Harmon had 10 points, including a pair of buckets in a frantic fourth quarter. Benson finished with nine after hitting five-of-six free throws in the closing minutes.

Four of Young’s eight points came in the fourth quarter as the Hawks battled to hold off North Lamar, which came into the contest at 5-3 and with a shot at a slice of the championship.

Kameron Woods led Pleasant Grove with 11 points. North Lamar’s Jake Walters wound up the game’s high scorer with 12 points after hitting a pair of three-pointers in the fourth quarter, including a desperation shot from 40 feet with two seconds left to make it a two-point game.

Kameron Woods drives the base line.

Pleasant Grove came out strong, scoring the first nine points, but North Lamar answered with a 10-2 run to make it 11-10 at the end of one. It stayed close the rest of the way.

Tied at 27 at the half, both teams came out of the locker room in a full-court press and points were hard to come by. With three minutes left in the contest, the Hawks opened a 40-32 lead, but North Lamar started throwing up prayers, and three were answered, leading to a photo finish.

“North Lamar is a good team and they played a great game,” Brewer said. “I’m just happy we won a district championship.”

Just down the road, second-place Paris knocked off Liberty-Eylau, 75-71 to move to 6-3 in district. The Wildcats will finish at home against Pittsburg, while Pleasant Grove will travel to last-place Atlanta.

Its playoff hopes still alive, L-E will travel to North Lamar, which has nailed down a playoff spot.

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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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