Traveling to Clayton County on Tuesday evening, the Upson-Lee Knights were looking to shock the No.7 state-ranked Cardinals from Jonesboro High School.
The Knights gave the Cardinals a scare, taking a 37-35 lead late in the third quarter, but the Knights had a tough time offensively in the fourth quarter, as the Cards held on for a 55-46 victory.
“I felt like even in a loss, we learned a lot as a team in the game,” said Knights head coach Darrell Lockhart. “We were just a couple of mistakes from getting a big win. We will continue to get better in practice and I feel like we could be a dangerous team to play when the Region Tournament comes around.”
From the start of the game, the Cardinals controlled the tempo. Jonesboro, which held a considerable size advantage over the Knights, played very aggressive man to man defense to start the game. The Cards also tried to confuse the Knights by changing defensive schemes on each offensive trip the Knights took down the court.
However, the Knights were able to find some success offensively, knocking down jumpers from the perimeter, and getting some nice production from freshman post player David Marshall. At the end of the first quarter, UL trailed Jonesboro 14-10.
The two teams continued to battle back and forth in the second quarter, but the Cardinals, who lead all of AAAA in team defense by allowing only 44 points per game, continued to control the pace and limiting the Knights fast break opportunities. At the end of the first half, the Cardinals were on pace to allow close to their average, leading the Knights 28-23.
As the third quarter started, the Knights came out more aggressive, determined to speed the pace of the game up to the tempo they wanted. Upson-Lee applied some half court trapping pressure, which enabled them to force Jonesboro into some turnovers and rushed shots offensively. Upson-Lee mounted a comeback with a 7-2 run to start the third quarter, and eventually took a 37-35 lead with 2:21 left in the third quarter. O’Qualon Harris knocked down a jumper over Jonesboro’s Cameron Sutton to give UL the lead.
With a two-point lead, UL head coach Darrell Lockhart decided to give his starters a break, sensing they would need a little rest for the fourth quarter. However, the move backfired and Jonesboro ended the quarter with 9-2 run to hold a 44-39 lead.
“As any coach would admit, mistakes are made,” said Lockhart. “I thought we could hold them off for two minutes to give the guys a little breather. We really worked hard to get the lead, and I didn’t want the guys to be tired for the fourth quarter. As it turns out, that wasn’t the right move. I made the mistake and I told the guys this one was on me. No coach is perfect. and as coaches we learn everyday.”
Jonesboro outscored the Knights 11-7 in the fourth quarter and held on for the 55-46 victory.
Kenderious Pennyman led the Knights with 11 points in the contest. Travis Pittman added nine points and six rebounds. Toby Fuentes finished with eight points, four steals, and four assists. O’Qualon Harris tallied eight points, while David Marshall scored eight points and added seven rebounds. Sophomore Adric Johnson chipped in with two points in the defeat.
The Knights will travel to Griffin tonight to take on the Spalding Jaguars. The Jags and the Knights each have a 7-8 record this season. Tip off for tonight’s crucial match-up is slated for 7:30 p.m.