Last season was the best season in the history of the Upson Lee Knights basketball program. The Knights entered the State Playoffs as a No. 4 seed from Region 2, and advanced all the way to the Elite 8, falling to eventual State Runner-Up Carrollton.
On Tuesday, the Runnin’ Knights opened up their season at home against the Heard County Braves. The Braves hung tough with Upson Lee for about half of the first quarter, but soon after it was evident that Upson Lee was going to cruise to a 1-0 start this season.
“I could tell that we were trying to feel them out a little bit in the first quarter,” said Coach Darrell Lockhart. “I felt like once we stepped up our defensive intensity, we were able to rattle them a little bit and got some easy baskets in transition. I was also able to play a lot of guys with different combinations. We have a lot of football players who have only had two practices so far this year.”
A noted missing player for Upson Lee is senior All-Region guard O’qualon Harris. The 6’1 guard has led the Knights in scoring over the last three seasons, but is out of action due to an injury suffered during football season, although it is hoped he will be back on the court soon.
The Knights led the Braves 18-9 at the end of the first quarter. Upson Lee got some quality minutes from many younger players, including freshman Travon Walker, who scored five points and grabbed six rebounds. Sophomore Tavias Fagan had a terrific first half for the Knights, scoring 10 of his 14 points in the first half. The Knights also shot well from the free throw line, making 12 of 16 shots for a 75 percent clip.
With a 37-22 lead at halftime, Upson Lee came out in the third quarter and put the game away. Guards Mikey Smith and Erik Graddick caused havoc in the Heard County back court, forcing turnover after turnover. Smith would lead the Knights with 16 points off the bench, including drilling (3) three-pointers.
The Knights put up 25 points in the third quarter, while allowing the Braves to only score seven points. When the fourth quarter started, UL led Heard County 62-29, and UL was able to play their bench players for much of the fourth quarter.
Smith paced Upson Lee with 16 points, while Fagan added 14 points. Zakarriyan Walker netted 12 points, while Kelcey Ausobrooks added eight points. Erik Graddick scored seven points, Travon Walker had five points, while Alex Lockhart and Cameron Traylor each chipped in with two points in the victory.
The Knights will now travel to Chestatee High School to play in a Thanksgiving Tournament in Gainesville. The Knights first opponent will be Johnson-Gainesville, who finished last season with 29-1 record, losing to Jonesboro in the Elite 8 last season.
Wes McCard can be contacted at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @WesMc21.