After a tough 58-56 loss to the Taylor County Vikings in their season opener, the Knights and head coach Darrell Lockhart knew that their rematch on Saturday night would come down to the wire, as is usually the case. Over the past three years, every game between the two schools (six games total) have been decided by seven points or less.
As the game unfolded on Saturday, it looked as if the Vikings may run away with the contest, leading the Knights by 12 points in the fourth quarter, but it was the Knights who outscored the Vikings 29-15 in the last quarter to come from behind and earn a 79-76 victory.
“This was just another classic Upson-Lee vs. Taylor County game,” said Knights Head Coach Darrell Lockhart. “These players all know each other so well, and many of them play together in Summer Leagues, which is probably the reason these games are always so competitive. I thought the guys showed a lot of heart tonight to come back in the fourth quarter, which is only fitting since we honored the American Heart Association at tonight’s game.”
From the opening tip, the Knights set the fast pace in which fans have become accustomed to seeing, as Kenderius Pennyman and Dinasis Walker gave the Knights a quick 8-0 lead with 6:49 still left in the opening quarter. Pennyman nailed a three-pointer and Walker was able to get to the rim and the free throw line at will, something which would be beneficial to the Knights later in the game.
After a timeout by the Vikings, they were able to catch up to the Knights’ pace of the game. Taylor County even gave the Knights a little of their own medicine by pressing the Knights in a 2-2-1 full court press. The Vikings were also able to get their superstar senior Gedarius Troutman going in the second quarter. Troutman, who finished the game with 33 points, knocked down two three-pointers in the second quarter, giving Taylor County a 36-35 lead at halftime.
In the third quarter of the game, the Vikings began to take advantage of some UL miscues. The Knights struggled to run their half court offense once they broke the Vikings’ full court press. In the quarter, Troutman was able to find his way to the free throw line, the same place in which he scored 17 of his 32 points in the two teams’ first match up of the season. However, in this game, the Knights were able to make their own free throws, as they got to the charity stripe 45 times in the contest.
Trailing 61-50 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Knights Malik Crafter and Dinasis Walker took over the game for the Upson-Lee. Coach Lockhart put UL senior point guard Toby Fuentes on Troutman in their man-to-man defense and the Knights began to make a run. With just over two minutes left in the game, Upson-Lee’s O’qualon Harris drilled a three- pointer from the corner, cutting the Vikings’ lead to 71-67, bringing the sold out crowd to their feet.
Junior Malik Crafter tied the game at 71-71 with a great dribble drive to the basket for two points, and getting fouled in the process. After Crafter missed the free throw, the Vikings came down the court and drilled a three-pointer of their own, taking a 74-71 lead with 1:49 left in the game. UL turned to their post players on their next couple of possessions, finding David Marshall and Dinasis Walker in the paint. It was a free throw by Walker with just 36 seconds remaining in the game that gave UL a 77-75 lead, their first lead of the game since the first quarter.
The Vikings were able to draw a foul and made one of two free throws to cut the Knights lead to 77-76, but Walker once again came through for the Knights at the free throw line, making two free throws and giving the Knights the 79-76 victory.
Dinasis Walker led the Knights with a career high 28 points, and added 11 rebounds. Malik Crafter also scored a career high 19 points, while David Marshall finished with a double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Kenderius Pennyman and O’qualon Harris each netted seven points, Antonie Miller scored six points, while Toby Fuentes added two points, five steals, and seven assists.
The Knights travel to Eagles Landing tonight to take on the defending State Champions in an important Region 4 contest. Tip off is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Eagles Landing High School.