“It feels good,” he said, both of the win, 56-53 over the Panthers, and the locale. “The first half … I know the season’s young and all that,” he said. “But that was the best effort I’ve seen from these kids so far.
“We played good in spurts but we played ‘real good’ in that first half.”
It should come as no surprise then that Warner Robins was leading after one, 16-13. With even more intensity up one end of the floor and down the other, it had increased that to 31-19 at the break.
The Panthers turned things around in the third but that came as no surprise to Chance.
“I knew 23 (Tyler Hendrick, who led all scorers with 17) and players like that (who, like Hendrick, were in foul trouble early) were going to come off the bench and provide a spark,” he said. “I even told the kids that in the locker room to expect that. But it didn’t matter.”
It didn’t matter because the Panthers did just as Chance warned. First off they made the first seven points of the quarter. That cut Warner Robins’ lead to 31-26. Then after some back and forth and with just over two minutes before the buzzer Hendrick made it 36-33 with the first free throw of two. The second missed but was rebounded by Dadra Ragin. He put it back. Now it was 36-35. Shortly after that Ragin made a layup off a transition basket to give Perry its first lead. They went into the fourth quarter up 42-38.
The Demons cut it to 42-40 to start and then about two minutes later went back on top. Brian Henderson first made it 44-42 – still in favor of Perry - with a free throw and then after a Panther miss and a trip back down the floor nailed a three pointer. Warner Robins’ lead was 52-48 before Hendrick hit a trey and then followed that up with a layup. That made it 53-52 Perry. A free throw from Henderson tied it and two more from him with 2:09 left made it the final; everything else – including two more trips to the free throw line for the Demons and several shots from the field by the Panthers – missed.
“Now I realize the wheels could have fallen off,” Chance said of the Perry turnaround in the second half. “But the kids kept battling. I’m proud of them for that.”
Said Perry boys basketball Head Coach Brett Hardy: “I thought we played flat after last night. I was scared we might do that.
“On the other hand, we just gave them too much. And Warner Robins played last night, too. (Still) the game was nip and tuck until the last minute. We just let it get out of control.”
WARNER ROBINS 56, PERRY 53
Warner Robins 16 15 7 18 - 56
Perry 13 6 23 11 - 53
Warner Robins: T.S. Whitmore 13, Darius Shine 12, Brian Henderson 11, Daniel Gazaway 6, Maurice Dudley 5, Charles Colbert 3, Jamaine Collins 3, Isaiah Leggette 2, Wellington Palmer 1.
Perry: Tyler Kendrick 17, Cortez Riley 11, Dadra Ragin 8, Rashad Tolliver 6, Ryan McGhee 3, Devonte Whitfield 3, Calvin Howard 3, Quinton Stripling 2.
3-pointers: Warner Robins 6 (Henderson, Whitmore 3, Shine 2); Perry 6 (Riley, McGhee, Whitfield, Ragan 2, Kendrick).