Sitting at 3-6 in Region 4 play, the Knights entered Friday night region showdown with Spalding needing a victory to stay in the hunt for a top seed in the Region 4 Tournament. Spalding entered the game riding a three-game winning streak an entered play with a 5-3 region record.
However, after building an early lead, letting it slip away, and regaining the lead with just three minutes in the game left, the Upson-Lee Knights earned a 67-62 victory over the Jaguars, moving their region record to 4-6 and dropping Spalding’s region record to 5-4.
“We did not play our best game tonight,” said Knights head coach Darrell Lockhart. “I thought we had too many turnovers, but i felt we rebounded the ball better, shot better from the free throw line, and turned up the defensive intensity at the right times to earn the victory.”
The game started with neither team doing much offensively. After nearly four minutes of play, the scoreboard still read 0-0 until UL’s David Marshall scored two points in the paint for the Knights. Upson-Lee built an early 9-0 lead late midway through the first quarter, but Spalding ended the quarter on a little run to cut the Knights lead to 17-14 after one period of play.
The two teams battled back and forth in the second quarter, as Upson-Lee’s O’qualon Harris started to heat up from the floor. Harris knocked down two three-pointers in the quarter and Upson-Lee held on to a 31-29 lead at halftime. Harris scored 11 of his game high 24 points in the first half of the game.
The Knights remained in control during the third quarter, but the scoreboard did not reflect the Knights’ play. Spalding did just enough to remain in the game, a game which seemed like the Upson-Lee held a comfortable lead. However, after three quarters of play, the Knights only led 42-41.
After scoring zero points in the first quarter, Spalding’s leading scorer, Alex Bonner, caught fire in the fourth quarter. The 6’1” guard started to find his way into the lane to knock down some jump shots, and the Jags began to get their transition offense going.
With 5:21 left in the game, Spalding had built a 56-52 lead and hung around long enough to overtake the Knights. As the Jaguars looked to run out the clock and earn a come-from-behind victory, Upson-Lee turned to Harris once again to get the Knights back in the game. With 4:32 left in the game, Harris drilled a three pointer from the corner, and just seconds later junior Dinasis Walker connected on a three point play the old fashioned way.
Walker was able to the basket while getting fouled. After knocking down the free throw, the Knights once again had the lead 59-58. Upson-Lee would not look back, as they were able to make their free throws towards the end of the game to seal the 67-62 victory. Upson-Lee made 18 of 24 shots from the free throw line (67 percent), a much better percentage than many games this season.
Harris led all players with 24 points, while Walker added 17 points. Malik Crafter notched seven points, while Kenderius Pennyman, Antonie Miller, and David Marshall each tallied six points. Tigger Walker chipped in with one point in the victory.
Alex Bonner led Spalding with 19 points.
The Knights will now look to start a winning streak as they travel to North Clayton High School today for an important contest. The Knights defeated North Clayton early this season in overtime by a 65-57 score. North Clayton defeated Griffin on Friday night by a 61-55 score. Tip off for tonight’s game is slated for 7:30 p.m. in College Park.
Wes McCard can be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @WesMc21