The ULMS Knights basketball team faced their toughest challenge of the the season thus far on Tuesday night. The Knights, who entered their game on Tuesday with a perfect 5-0 record, squared off with the only other undefeated team in the region when the 5-0 Blue Devils from Manchester Middle School came to Thomaston for the showdown.
In front of a packed out ULMS gymnasium, the Knights jumped out to a huge lead in the first quarter, led by 19 at halftime, and held on in the second half of the game for a 55-48 victory, and remained undefeated on the season.
“I thought the guys really started out fast and played well from the opening tip,” said ULMS Knights head coach Tim Cook. “We took control of the pace offensively and we were able to push the ball up the floor when we wanted, and we were able to let off the gas and run our half court offense when we wanted. I felt like the first half went about as well as possible. In the second half I knew they would come out and press us, which they did. They are a very well coached team and they fought back in the second half. They were very deep, playing 12 players in the game, something that we are just not able to do. We are very thin on the bench, which showed as we tired late in the game, but the guys hung on and earned a hard fought victory against a very good team.”
The Knights came out behind the sharp shooting of Cameron Traylor and Zyrice Scott in the back court. Each guard drilled three-pointers in the opening minutes, forcing the Blue Devils to take an early timeout. Traylor, who finished with eight points in the game, scored all eight of his points in the first quarter. However, Tavias Fagan was the player the Blue Devils seemed to have no answer for, as many teams have found out so far this season. At the end of the first quarter, the Knights had built a 14-point cushion, leading by a 24-10 score.
In the second quarter, the Knights began to run more of their motion offense in the half court set, as Fagan was able to find the lane and penetrate to the basket. ULMS big man Travon Walker also had success in the paint and on the glass with offensive rebounds. Perhaps the biggest advantage the Knights held in the game was at the free throw line. The Knights knocked down 17 of 20 free throws in the game, an impressive 85 percent clip.
“That is probably what won the game for us,” said Cook. “We have struggled some this season with our free throw shooting, but the guys were so focused for this game, and it showed at the free throw line where we had some success. If we are getting to the basket and going to the line knocking down free throws, we can be hard to beat. I was very pleased with our free throw shooting tonight.”
In the second half of the game the Blue Devils fought back from a 40-21 halftime deficit. Manchester outscored ULMS 20-4 in the third quarter, cutting the Knights lead to 44-41. However, UL held serve and hit some big shots down the stretch to secure the 55-48 victory.
Tavias Fagan led the Knights with 18 points, while seventh grader Zyrice Scott finished in double figures with 16 points. Cameron Traylor scored eight points in the contest, and Travon Walker added seven points. Rodney Raines tallied four points, while Brantavious Harris chipped in with two points in the victory.
The undefeated Knights took on Pike County Middle School on Thursday evening, but the results of that game were not available by press time. Look in Tuesday’s edition of The Times for a game recap.