Tuesday night was the second game of the season for both the Upson-Lee Knights and the Stockbridge Tigers, but both teams knew the importance of the region 4 contest. In their first game, the Knights lost a close one to Taylor County by a 68-64 score, and in the Tigers’ first game, they earned a blowout victory over Southwest Atlanta Christian (SWAC) by a 76-50 score.
It was evident by just looking at the size of the two teams, that the Knights were going to need to use their speed to overcome their visible size disadvantage, and that’s exactly what the Knights did. Upson-Lee jumped out to an early 22-6 lead after the first quarter, as they would cruise to an 81-68 victory. The Knights emptied their bench at the 3:06 mark of the fourth quarter, holding a 76-55 lead.
“We really got after it defensively tonight,” said Knights head coach Darrell Lockhart. “I felt like we really pushed the tempo and forced them to play our style of basketball. They were a bigger team, and we couldn’t afford to let them set up a half court offense. I also felt like our bench played well. I can only start five players, but we have more than five starters on our team. We just need to continue to rebound the ball better and shoot free throws better.”
The Knights, led by Jalen Searcy’s 20 points, jumped out to an early 10-2 lead in the first quarter. Searcy scored 11 of his 20 points in the first quarter. The Knights were able to terrorize the Tigers’ back court with ball pressure, forcing turnovers which turned into transition baskets for the Knights’ offense. At the end of the first quarter of play, the Knights led 22-6.
In the second quarter, the Tigers started to knock down some shots from the perimeter, but the Knights continued to get good looks at the basket in their motion offense. Junior Caleb Ward came off the bench in the second quarter and caught fire from the floor. Ward could not miss, knocking down two three-pointers and getting to the basket with ease. Ward finished with 13 points in the game, netting 10 points in the second quarter alone. With the Knights offense clicking, they led 43-25 at halftime.
In the third quarter, the two teams played pretty evenly. The difference in the game, was the Knights continuing to push the tempo. Upson-Lee could sub in and out with different players and never lose a beat. Toby Fuentes ran the Knights up-tempo offense brilliantly from the point guard position, finishing with seven assists and seven points in the game. At the end of three quarters, UL led Stockbridge 62-46.
To start the fourth quarter of play, Upson-Lee’s freshman Kenderius Pennyman began to take over the game. Pennyman, who finished with 15 points, scored 11 of those points in the fourth quarter. Upson-Lee continued to get whatever they wanted offensively, and senior Travis Pittman started to dominate in the paint. The Knights extended their lead to 76-55 with 3:06 remaining in the game. At that point, Lockhart emptied his bench, and the Knights cruised to an 81-68 victory.
Jalen Searcy led the Knights with 20 points in the game. Kenderius Pennyman finished with a career high 15 points, Caleb Ward and Travis Pittman each reached double figures with 13 points, Toby Fuentes added seven points, with David Marshall and JaQualon Willis each scoring three points. Trey Bussey and O’Qualon Harris each chipped in with two points in the victory.
The Knights (1-1) will travel to Stockbridge tonight and take on the Woodland Wolfpack (0-4), who lost to Griffin Tuesday night by a 50-22 score. Tip off for the region showdown is slated for 7:30 p.m.