“If there is any team in this tournament that I do not want to play, it’s definitely Upson-Lee”, said one Region 4 head coach before the Region 4 Tournament started. “You can score 75 points and Upson-Lee can still beat you, or you can score 50 points and have a chance to beat them. They are young and very talented; it’s teams like that which give coaches fits come playoff time.”
That statement held true on Monday night in the quarterfinals of the Region 4 Tournament at Griffin High School. The Knights, coming off of a convincing 80-62 victory over Dutchtown in round 2, had the No. 1 seeded Riverdale Raiders on the ropes late in the fourth quarter.
The Knights had an opportunity to win the game and ruin the playoff hopes of the 21-5 Raiders. Unfortunately, Upson-Lee’s Kenderius Pennyman’s shot at the buzzer hit of the back and then the front of the rim and fell out, as the Knights lost a heart breaker by a 49-48 score.
The Knights came out of the blocks playing a 3-2 zone against the Raiders, but this time they decided to front the post players, something that paid off for the Knights in the long run, keeping them in the contest and out of foul trouble. Upson-Lee held the Region 4 Player of the Year Quincy January to just eight points, and he also fouled out with just under a minute in the game.
After one quarter of play, the Knights trailed 12-9, and in the second quarter Upson-Lee started to attack the rim with the dribble drive more frequently. The Knights were able to get some of the Raiders in foul trouble in the first half, and Upson-Lee got some opportunities as the free throw line. However, in the second quarter, the Knights struggled with giving up offensive rebounds to the Raiders.
As the half came to an end, Upson-Lee sophomore O’qaulon Harris drilled a three pointer from half court as the buzzer sounded. The Knights headed into the locker room at halftime trailing by a 25-24 score. After the shot went through the net, a Raiders played slammed the ball on the court, earning him a technical foul. The two-shot foul was assessed as the third quarter started, and after David Marshall made both free throws, the Knights led 26-25 before the third quarter started.
The two teams played a back and forth game, as each teams took turns taking the lead in the second half of play. With 4:21 left in the fourth quarter, the Knights made a 7-0 run to take a 45-40 lead. However, after two missed lay ups, the Raiders took advantage with a three-point play, the old fashioned way.
The Raiders climbed back into the lead with just 6.7 seconds to play, after making one of two free throws. Trailing 49-48, the Knights got the ball with 6.7 seconds left in the game. Malik Crafter drove the length of the court, looking to drive the ball to the basket, but Crafter was doubled teamed. Crafter made a pass over to Kenderius Pennyman, but Pennyman’s shot rimmed out, as the Knights suffered a tough 49-48 loss.
Wes McCard can be contacted at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter@WesMc21.