The Upson-Lee Knights entered Tuesday night’s contest with the Riverdale Raiders with a 9-10 record, with seven of their 10 losses coming by six points or less. The same trend continued after a 51-50 overtime loss to the Raiders in Riverdale on Tuesday night, and the Knights have now lost three games in a row by a combined five points.
UL outscored Riverdale in three of the four quarters of regulation, but suffered a tough second quarter, as Riverdale outscored the Knights 19-4. The Knights were able to fight back after trailing by 14 points at halftime to force a 45-45 tie at the end of regulation, forcing an overtime period. Unfortunately the Knights were outscored 6-5 in the overtime period. Big games from two freshmen, David Marshall (23 points) and Kenderius Pennyman (22 points), enabled the Knights to climb back into the game. Other than the two freshmen, the Knights only had two other players score in the contest.
“We really played well for three quarters tonight,” said UL head coach Darrell Lockhart. “The two youngsters really came into their own tonight, but they had to score 45 of our 50 points. We need more balance from our other players, and I am counting on an upper class player to step up and lead this team to a good finish and a good showing in the region tournament. If we can get a balanced effort, we could be dangerous in the post season.”
Defense was the major element of the game in the first quarter. The Knights and the Raiders kept their opponents’ offenses in check. The Knights utilized a 2-3 zone and a 1-2-2 half court trap, while the Raiders played tough full court man-to-man defense. The Raiders jumped out to an 8-2 lead, but UL closed the quarter on a 7-0 run, leading 9-8 at the buzzer.
In the second quarter, the wheels fell off for the Knights. The Raiders started to run their fast break offense, catching the Knights off guard. UL also received some adversity from the officials in the game. The Raiders were charged with one foul in the second quarter, while the Knights were charged with nine fouls. The Raiders outscored the Knights 19-4 in the period, with many points coming from the free throw line. Riverdale went to the free throw line 31 times in the game, while the Knights toed the charity stripe 20 times.
The four-point performance in the second quarter was the lowest output for a period this season. Trailing 27-13 at halftime, UL came out of the locker room with a sense of urgency. Upson-Lee’s freshmen duo put the team on their shoulders, with each scoring 10 points in the quarter. Kenderious Pennyman started to knock down jumpers from the perimeter, and David Marshall took control of the paint. Marshall owned the glass on Tuesday night, grabbing 13 rebounds to go along with his 23 points.
While scoring 21 points in the quarter, the Knights’ defense started to force the Raiders into turnovers. Led by junior point guard Toby Fuentes (8 assists, 5 steals), the Knights’ full court press was the key to the UL offense getting in gear. At the end of the third quarter, the Knights had cut the Riverdale lead to 38-34.
In the fourth quarter, both teams began to play the type of defense played in the first quarter. The Knights cooled off from the floor, but Marshall continued to dominate the paint area, getting buckets on offensive put backs and making trips to the free throw line. It was Marshall who scored the game tying basket with just seven seconds left in the game, knotting the score up 45-45 and sending the game into overtime.
In the overtime period, the Raiders turned to their superstar junior player Quincey January. The 6’4” junior had four dunks in the game, and scored five of the Raiders’ six points in overtime. January, who leads the sub-region in points per game, finished with 18 points on Tuesday night.
The Raiders outscored the Knights 6-5 in the overtime period. Pennyman hit a three-pointer at the buzzer, but the Knights fell one point short, losing 51-50.
Marshall led the Knights with a career high 23 points. Kenderius Pennyman added 22 points, Toby Fuentes scored three points, dished out eight assists, and snatched five steals. Jalen Searcy chipped in with two points in the Knights’ loss.
The Knights will welcome the No.1 team in the sub-region to Thomaston tonight, when they face the Jonesboro Cardinals (12-1, 18-4). The Cardinals are led by their 6’8” big man Chukedubem Okeke, who has committed to Winthrop University. The Knights and Cardinals battled earlier in the season in Clayton County, and UL suffered a 55-46 loss. Jonesboro is currently ranked No. 6 in the state according to the AJC. Tip off for tonight’s game is slated for 7:30 p.m.