The Upson-Lee Knights basketball team headed into Tuesday’s night match up against Locust Grove facing their third region opponent in a row. The Knights entered the contest with a 2-1 record and a 2-0 record in region play. Upson-Lee will play teams from Region 4B twice this season and teams from Region 4A once. The Knights already have victories over Stockbridge and Woodland, both Region 4A teams. Upson-Lee will not face either of those teams again this season, unless it is in the Region 4 Tournament. Region 4 is not sub-divided in the Region Tournament.
After falling down 11-2 in the early stages of the first quarter, head coach Darrell Lockhart called a time out to rally his troops. From that moment on, the Knights were a different team, outscoring the Wildcats 64-37 throughout the rest of the game, winning 66-48.
“We started the game out and played about as bad as we could play,” said Lockhart. “I told the guys they needed to buckle down and stop the turnovers. I told them that they needed to play the way I knew they could play, or I would find someone else to play for them. I think they got the message.”
Following the time out, Upson-Lee went on a 14-2 run to close out the first quarter, leading the Cats 16-13.
After scoring 20 points against Dutchtown, Upson-Lee freshman O’Qualon Harris once again led the Knights in scoring with 18 points. The Wildcats made a concerted effort to stop Harris, playing a box-and-one defense (four players in zone-one player playing tough man to man). However, Harris got hot in the second quarter, scoring 11 of his 20 points in the period.
Also in the second quarter, junior Caleb Ward came off the bench to spark the team with five quick points. The Cats were still playing the box-and-one defense, defending Harris man to man. That left Ward open on the perimeter of the zone, where he drilled a deep three-pointer, forcing the Cats out of that defense. Ward’s sharp shooting seemed to be what enabled Harris to get opportunities from the field, as the Cats were ultimately forced out of the box-and-one defense.
Upson-Lee senior Travis Pittman also had a nice game for the Knights. The 6’3” senior played a physical game in the post, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds in the game. With just 1:08 left in the first half, the Knights had pushed their lead to 36-22, and eventually led 38-22 at halftime.
The Knights continued to play at a fast pace in the second half of the game. The pace and tempo of the game favored the Knights’ fast break style of play, while at the same time the Knights were under control. Upson-Lee guards Toby Fuentes and Jalen Searcy ran the Knights’ offense beautifully, while adding stiff defensive pressure to the Cats’ back court.
Harris paced the Knights with 18 points, including knocking down four treys. Travis Pittman added 14 points, freshman David Marshall scored 13 points, Jalen Searcy netted 10 points, Kenderius Penyman finished with six points and six assists, while Caleb Ward added five points off the bench. The Knights also finished 9 for 14 from the free throw line at a 64 percent clip, a far cry from their previous season high of 48 percent.
The Runnin’ Knights will travel to Taylor County on Saturday to take on the Vikings. The Vikings gave the Knights their only loss of the season in a 68-64 game to start the 2012-13 season. The Knights will be back home on Tuesday to take on the No. 1 ranked team in the state from Eagle’s Landing High School. The Golden Eagles have several Division I commits, including 6’11’ Desmond Ringer, who has committed to South Carolina.