Darrell Lockhart and his Runnin’ Knights came away with their biggest win of the season on Wednesday night. Scheduled originally to play on Tuesday night, the game was moved to Wednesday night due to the freezing temperatures of late. On Wednesday the Knights came into Griffin and it was Upson-Lee’s defense which kept the Bears cold as ice from the floor.
As the game started it was evident that Upson-Lee’s energy level was much higher than that of Griffin. The Knights bolted out to an 8-2 lead with tenacious defense in their 1-2-2 full court press. The defensive pressure from O’qualon Harris, Malik Crafter, and Kenderius Pennyman caused problems for the Bears back court. The Knights used a balanced attack with their inside and outside scoring, with five players scoring seven points or more. It was this balance which kept the Knights a step ahead of the Bears and helped them earn the the 50-41 region victory on the road.
“We really stepped it up defensively tonight,” said Lockhart. “We will miss our starting point guard for the next few weeks, and tonight we filled his role with multiple players. I like the way we were able rebound the ball effectively and get our big men the ball in the post. Tonight we showed we can play with just ab0ut anyone, we just have to come out and give this type of effort night in and night out.”
The Knights were a man short and will be for the next six weeks or so. Upson-Lee point guard Toby Fuentes, the only senior on the team, suffered a hand injury which will keep him out, possibly until the Region 4 Tournament or later.
However, the Knights were able to overcome the missing Fuentes and start fast against the Bears. It seemed as perhaps the Knights were taking this game a little personal, as Griffin has ended the Knights season in the Region Tournament in two of the last three years. After one quarter the Knights held a 14-11 lead, and continued to expand their lead in the second quarter.
It was in quarter number two where Upson-Lee’s Malik Crafter scored six of his seven points. Crafter drilled a three-pointer to open the quarter, and it was UL’s big man David Marshall who kept the Knights in front with some jump hooks in the post and a jumper from the elbow. At the half, the Knights led 32-22.
For as hot as the Knights started the second quarter, they started the third quarter just as cold. UL continued to get good looks at the basket, but it was almost as if their was an invisible lid on the rim. Upson-Lee could not buy a basket, but fortunately they continued to play well defensively. Upson-Lee managed just six points in the quarter, but they still held a 37-32 lead as the two teams headed into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter the Bears started to make a little noise, opening the quarter with a 6-2 run, to cut the Knights lead to 39-38, but UL stepped on the gas defensively. The Knights were able to force the Bears into turnovers, which turned into transition baskets for Upson-Lee. The Knights ended the game on an 11-3 run, sealing the 50-41 victory.
David Marshall led the Knights balanced scoring attack with 12 points. Kenderius Pennyman and O’qualon Harris each reached double digits with 10 points, while Malik Crafter and Antonie Miller each tallied seven points. Upson-Lee junior Dinasis Walker chipped in with three points in the victory.
The Knights will travel to Riverdale tonight for another Region 4B contest. The Raiders (10-3, 4-2) and Knights (6-10, 3-4) will tip off at 7:30 p.m.