Jamison McCray poured in a career-high 26 points and Alex Bonner added 20 as LaGrange toppled Emory 84-78 at the Lee Richter Classic in Mariotti Gym on Saturday. The win improved the Panthers' record to 2-1, while Emory (2-1) took its first loss of the season.
"We needed to bounce back from our trip to Pennsyvania and we had a good week of practice," said Coach Kendal Wallace, who recorded his 99th career win. "We were fired up this morning and we knew it was going to be a 40-minute game and we were going to have to play the entire time."
McCray was 9-of-14 from the floor, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range. Bonner had eight rebounds and four assists to go with his 20 points. Travis Thompson had a double-double of 13 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. The Panthers had a 44-34 advantage on the boards.
"I knew rebounding was going to be the key to the game," Wallace pointed out. "I felt like we did a good job rebounding and that was the difference in the game."
The Panthers took the lead in the first half with 6:32 remaining. With McCray scoring 15 in the half, LC led 42-35 at the break. In the second half, the Panthers continued to increase its lead, going up 56-40 on a 3-pointer by Lincoln Anderson with 15 minutes remaining.
Emory chipped away at the deficit, catching the Panthers on a three-point play by Romin Williams to tie the game at 68 with 4:26 left. Christopher Avant's jumper put the Eagles up 78-77 with 54 seconds left.
McCray and Bonner answered for the Panthers. McCray drained a trey off an assist from Bonner to put LC ahead to stay, 80-78, with 38 seconds left. Bonner helped ice the game by hitting 4-of-6 free throws in the closing seconds. The pair combined to score the Panthers' final 11 points.
"Jamison's 3-pointer was huge, a big, big shot for us," Wallace said. "He has struggled a lit bit in practice and I talked with him about staying positive and bring his best game. He did that today and it was a huge game for him, very proud of that young man."
The Panthers close out play in the Lee Richter Classic on Sunday against Oglethorpe. Tip off is 4 p.m.