After two tough losses by a combined three points against Taylor County and Stockbridge, the Upson-Lee Knights came away with a 74-72 victory over Northside-Warner Robins in their home opener on Friday night. The Knights struggles from the free throw line led to their 0-2 start, making only 12 of 29 against Taylor County and 9 of 32 against Stockbridge.
However, on Friday the Knights got to the charity stripe 41 times, making 28 free throws for a .689 percent clip in the game.
“We really did a good job tonight of getting to the free throw line,” said Knights head coach Darrell Lockhart. “We have really struggled from the line in our first two games of the season. It had gotten to a point to where the guys were thinking too much when they were shooting their free throws. Tonight, they seemed more relaxed from the free throw line and we were able to make more shots, especially down the stretch. This was not a region game, but it was a big win for us against a good team. Hopefully we can take this victory into our next game.”
The game did not start out promising for the Runnin’ Knights, with the Eagles taking a 13-2 lead with 4:21 left in the first quarter. However, it was junior Antonie Miller who caught fire from the perimeter, knocking down (3) three-pointers over the next two minutes, sparking an 11-0 run by Upson-Lee. After the first quarter, the Knights had fought their way back and held a slim 17-15 lead.
In the second quarter the Knights made an effort to get the ball into the post to their big men David Marshall and Dinasis Walker. Both Walker and Marshall finished with 11 rebounds each in the contest, and reached double figures with 14 (Walker) and 13 (Marshall) points respectively. Walker found his way to the free throw line 20 times in the game, making 14 free throws, scoring all of his points from the charity stripe.
Upson-Lee’s sophomore O’Qualon Harris started to find his range from the floor in the second quarter, drilling a three-pointer with 1:23 left in the second quarter, giving Upson-Lee a 31-24 lead. The Knights’ run was sparked by the great defensive effort from the Knights back court consisting of Harris and Toby Fuentes. At the half, UL headed to the locker room with a 35-26 lead, led by Antonie Miller and his 12 points.
In the second half of the game, the Eagles gave the Knights a little dose of their own medicine. Northside came out in a full court press and caught the Knights off guard, going on a 9-0 run to start the second half. In the third quarter the Knights were outscored 24-13 and at the end of the quarter the Knights trailed by a 50-48 score.
In the fourth quarter it was once again Harris who got the Knights offense going. The 6’0 guard scored nine points in the quarter and Dinasis Walker knocked down six free throws, including the game winner with just seconds remaining. With 7 seconds left in the game, the Knights were trailing by a 68-70 score, and Walker was fouled, going to the line for two shots. Walker made the first free throw, cutting the lead to one, 70-69. But before he could shoot the second, a technical foul was called on the Eagles for pushing a Knights player between free throws. Harris stepped up to make two free throws, followed by another free throw from Walker, as the Knights came back to defeat NSWR by a 74-72 score.
O’Qualon Harris led the Knights and all players with 21 points. Dinasis Walker added 14 points and 12 rebounds, David Marshall netted 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Malik Crafter finished with seven points, including a booming slam dunk in the fourth quarter. Tigger Walker added three points, Caleb Ward scored two points, and Kenderius Pennyman also chipped in with two points in the victory. Upson-Lee point guard Toby Fuentes did not register a point in the game, but dished out eight assists and finished with six steals in the game.