When the Taylor County Vikings and the Upson-Lee Knights get together on the basketball court, it’s almost a certainty that the game will be close until the final buzzer. In the Knights’ season opener in Butler against the Vikings on Saturday, the two teams played another nail biter which came down to the last few seconds.
However, it was what the Knights did not do during the first 30 minutes of the game which proved to be the determining factor in their 58-56 loss to the Vikings. The Knights shot a dismal 12 of 29 from the free throw line for a percentage of 41 percent in the game. If the Knights could have shot just 50 percent, the Knights would be 1-0 rather than 0-1.
“It’s something that is definitely frustrating”, said Knights head coach Darrell Lockhart. “We knew that it was going to be a tough game, but we made it tougher on ourselves by not making free throws. I thought we played with a much higher energy level in the second half of the game, but missed free throws and missed opportunities in the first half put us in a hole that we could not get out of.”
One key in the game for the Knights was to contain Vikings shooting guard Gedarius Troutman. The 6’3” senior is being courted by schools such as Youngstown State, Duquesne, and Mercer. Upson-Lee seemed to do a fairly decent job holding the shooter in check from the floor. Troutman finished with 15 points from the field, but it was his ability to knock down free throws which essentially won the game for Taylor County. Troutman went to the line 20 times and made 17 free throws, finishing with 32 points in the game. No other Viking had more than seven points.
At halftime Upson-Lee found themselves down by a 28-18 score, but UL sophomore O’Qualon Harris found his stroke from the court in the second half. The Knights were able to out score the Vikings 16-10 in the third quarter, utilizing their fast break offense and a half court trapping defense. Senior point guard Toby Fuentes stole the ball from the Vikings point guard with just 11 seconds left in the third quarter, and went coast to coast for a lay up, cutting the Vikings lead to 38-32 at the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Upson-Lee made a nice run with the help of Harris and junior Malik Crafter. Harris hit a jumper with just over a minute to go, and Crafter caught a nice bounce pass from K.D. Pennyman for a lay up to tie the ball game at 52-52 with 1:02 left in the game.
However, once again it was Upson-Lee who missed their free throws and Troutman who made all six of his free throw attempt in the fourth quarter, sealing the Vikings’ 58-56 victory.
Harris paced the Knights with 21 points and three steals. Toby Fuentes added eight points, sis assists and four steals, K.D Pennyman added seven points along with seven points from Malik Crafter. Dinasis Ausbrooks tallied five points and six rebounds, while David Marshall also added five points and nine rebounds. Tigger Walker finished the game with two points, and Jarvis Atwater chipped in with one point.
The Knights will hit the road to Stockbridge tonight to face the Tigers in their first Region 4 game of the season. Tip off is slated for 7:30 p.m.