It’s been two years, but the Upson-Lee Knights are once again the Champions of the Lamar County Christmas Tournament. Upson-Lee defeated Lamar County by a 75-60 score on Friday night, and defeated Griffin 63-58 on Saturday night to clam the tournament title.
The Knights got great play from their three fantastic freshmen, as David Marshall earned the tournament M.V.P. award, O’Qualon Harris was named to the All-Tournament Team, and Kenderious Pennyman finished the tournament averaging 10 points per game.
“Those three freshmen really have people, including myself, excited about Upson-Lee basketball,” said Knights head coach Darrell Lockhart. “We played really well for the most part, and I felt like we could have had a couple more people make the All-Tournament Team, but we were only allowed two players.”
The Knights took on the host team Lamar County in the opening round of the tournament on Friday night. Upson-Lee left little to the fans’ imagination about the outcome of the game, as they jumped out to an early 13-2 lead in the first quarter. The Knights came out on fire offensively in the game, as Harris scored 14 points in the first half, including (2) three pointers.
Upson-Lee’s Jalen Searcy also ripped the Trojans for eight points in the first quarter, running the Knights’ fast break to perfection. Upson-Lee led the Trojans 24-13 at the end of the first quarter.
“Jalen really stepped up for us against Lamar,” said Lockhart. “I felt like we really rebounded the ball well, and took care of the basketball on offense. We were able to limit our turnovers and build a good lead heading into halftime. It was a really good game for us. I felt like we played comfortable, but we still have a lot to work on.”
The Knights led the Trojans 47-26 at the half.
In the second half of the game, the Knights continued to hold on to their lead. Upson-Lee was able to get some of their bench players in the game in the fourth quarter, after leading Lamar County 61-43 at the end of the third quarter. Upson-Lee was able to cruise to a 75-60 victory with good play from their bench players.
O’Qualon Harris led the Knights with 20 points. Jalen Searcy also reached double figures with 16 points, while Travis Pittman scored 15 points and snatched down 12 rebounds. David Marshall and Kenderious Pennyman each tallied eight points, Caleb Ward netted five points, Lazzarius Horton scored two points, while Trey Bussey chipped in with one point in the victory.
After the Griffin Bears defeated the Pike County Pirates in the first round of the tournament Friday night, the Bears and the Knights faced off in the Championship Game Saturday night. The Knights and Bears are in the same region, and are scheduled to play twice this season, but the game between the two teams in the tournament will not count in the region standings.
The Bears entered the contest with an 8-3 record, while the Knights held a record of 5-4. In front of a packed out gymnasium at Lamar County High School, the Knights used a career high 17 points and 10 rebounds from freshman David Marshall, as the Knights jumped out to a commanding lead and held on for a 63-58 victory over the Bears.
“I can’t remember the last time we have had a legit big man in the paint who plays with the strength and finesse that David plays with,” said Lockhart. “He has great footwork in the paint and is a strong rebounder, plus the fact he is a freshman makes for a bright future for Upson-Lee basketball.”
Griffin attempted countless three point shots in the contest, but only made four in the entire game. The Knights were able to take advantage of the Bears’ cold shooting, rebounding the ball well and getting out in transition offensively. The Knights went on a 10-3 run to end the first quarter, leading the Bears 13-7 as the two teams headed into the second quarter.
The Knights continued to rack up the points in the second quarter,, while Griffin still could not buy a bucket. After a three pointer from O’Qualon Harris, the Knights led the Bears 24-9 with 2:51 to go in the first half. The most noticeable difference other than the field goal percentage, continued to be the rebounding by the Knights. Upson-Lee took a 29-19 lead into the locker room at the half.
In the third quarter, the Bears mounted a comeback. Griffin finally began to knock down some shots, and forced the Knights into some turnovers with a 2-2-1 press. The Bears outscored the Knights 18-13 in the third quarter, although the Knights still led the Bears 42-37 at the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Bears continued to apply pressure to the Knights’ back court, but it was the play of Marshall who ultimately kept the Knights in the game. With the Knights leading the Bears 47-40 with 4:48 to go in the game, the Bears went on an 8-0 run, taking the lead, 48-47, for the first time in the game. However, Ja’Qualon Willis knocked down a free throw to tie the game up. Willis gave the Knights valuable minutes off the bench. In the late stages of the fourth quarter, Marshall and Travis Pittman dominated the paint both offensively and defensively. Pittman knocked down two free throws with 17.5 second left to go, giving the Knights a 62-58 lead, as the Knights ultimately went on to win the title game, 63-58.
Marshall led the Knights with 17 points and 10 rebounds, including making 9-12 free throws in the contest. Kenderious Pennyman added 12 points, Travis Pittman finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, O’Qualon Harris scored nine points, while Jalen Searcy, Caleb Ward, and Toby Fuentes each tallied four points, and Ja’Qualon Willis chipped in with one point in the victory.
The Knights will begin preparing for their first sub-region game of the season, as Upson-Lee will travel on Jan. 4 to take on the pre-season No. 5 state ranked Eagles from North Clayton High School.