Shortly after finishing off a three-point play that put Granger ahead near the end of the third quarter, Lancers forward T.J. Tapusoa spun around and faced the West student section. He raised an index finger and pressed it against his lips.
But Granger did more than simply silence some boisterous students with their 66-58 victory at West High on Tuesday night. The Lancers also claimed sole possession of first place in Region 6 a fact not lost on Granger's student section as they chanted "first in region" while the final seconds ticked off the clock.
The significance of being atop their region was also not lost on the Lancer players.
"That's like the first time in a lot of years we've been in first," senior guard Thayne Fue said.
Fue played a major role in making it happen by coming up with a couple of huge fourth quarter plays to put Granger on top for good in a back-and-forth game.
After Mani Tapusoa stole the ball, the senior raced ahead of the nearest West defender for an easy layup that gave the Lancers a 48-47 lead. On the team's next possession, Fue answered the bell again this time burying a 3-pointer to extend the lead to four.
It was the biggest part of a decisive 9-0 run which put Granger ahead 55-47 with 2:47 left.
"We executed better," Fue said of the second half. "We made shots that we needed to make that counted."
After struggling to find their shot for most of the first half, the Lancers' offense came back to the life in the third quarter behind the blistering shooting of Mani Tapusoa. Tapusoa scored baskets on four consecutive offensive possessions to turn a 33-30 West lead into a 39-39 tie.
Granger coach Kurt Schneider said that Tapusoa who combined with his cousin Ray to score 47 of the team's 66 points is finding his groove in region play.
"He has just been working hard and he is just starting to feel really good in the last couple of weeks," Schneider said.
Granger went cold early on after jumping out to a 6-0 lead. West wasted no time in taking advantage with a 9-0 run to take a 9-6 lead. The Panthers stayed one step ahead of the Lancers throughout the second quarter by not forcing up bad shots and attacking the glass.Freshman guard Tyrell Corbin set the tone in the quarter by grabbing four rebounds and hitting three of four free throws to put West up 23-20. Junior forward Chris Barnes also came up big, scoring two baskets in the final 39 seconds to snuff out an attempted Granger rally and give the Panthers a 27-24 halftime lead.
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