Graham leads Jackets into semis
Lee County made it 3-for-3 over Panther Creek this boys’ basketball season on Tuesday night and the third Jacket victory, a 64-56 win, puts No. 4-seeded Lee County into tonight’s semifinals of the Tri-Nine Conference Tournament against top-seeded Apex.
Yellow Jacket point guard Dante Graham did some of everything, totaling 22 points, four rebounds, three steals and three assists.
After Panther Creek closed within a point late in the fourth quarter, fighting back from what was a 50-39 Lee County lead to a 53-52 Jacket edge, Graham made three free throws on two trips to the line, then came up with a steal leading to Trevon Watson’s lay-up for a 58-52 Lee County lead with 1:30 and counting.
Unlike the rest of the second half, as the Jackets (13-12) and Catamounts (9-13) traded momentum swings, the Catamounts couldn’t claw back within a one-possession game again.
Graham also sparked Lee County early in the contest as the Catamounts had little answer for his drives into the lane. The 5-foot-10 cornerback/guard turned in two three-point plays in the opening period, the second off an interception then 20-yard return for a bucket and a foul. Graham scored 10 of the 14 Jacket points in Lee County’s 14-13 edge after a period.
A Graham steal and pass set up Dewaun McEachin for a dunk for a 16-15 Lee County lead shortly into the second period. It didn’t always feel like it with Panther Creek’s charges in the second half but the Yellow Jackets wouldn’t trail again.
Panther Creek’s Josh Maciejewski hit a pair of three-pointers opening the second half scoring and quickly chopping Lee County’s 28-17 halftime lead down to 28-23. Akeem Tate, who led the Catamounts with 19 points, made a bucket in the lane bringing the Catamounts with a 32-30 deficit.
Lee County had the answer. Jason Payne scored in the low post to stop the Panther Creek run, and renew the Jacket home-court advantage, then Watson drained a three on a fast break to make it 37-30 Lee County.
The Catamounts chipped the Jacket advantage to four points only for Hunter Jackson, who hadn’t scored yet, to hit back-to-back three-pointers for a 45-35 Jacket lead late in the third.
Tate, who scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half, kept the Catamounts close and Nubian Spann, the main Catamount in the paint most of the night, hit a big three-pointer bringing Panther Creek within a 53-52 Jacket lead with 2:33 left.
On the next Jacket trip, Graham drove down the lane and drew Spann’s fifth foul. Graham hit one free throw, then went 2-for-2 after an empty Catamount possession putting Lee County up by four. Graham made 12-of-16 free throws on the night.
McEachin had 14 points. Watson scored 11 points. Jackson had a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds. Lee County finished with a 15-7 edge in turnovers.
Spann had 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Catamounts. Maciejewski had 12 points, all on three-pointers.