After perhaps their best performance of the year in a 78-47 victory over Lamar County last Saturday night, the Upson-Lee Runnin’ Knights (7-12, 3-6) were looking to carry over some momentum for a critical Region 4 battle with Jonesboro (14-5) on Tuesday night.
The Knights came out and played well in the opening minutes of the game, building a 10-4 lead in the first quarter. Upson-Lee took advantage of the Cardinals playing in a man-to-man defense in the first half, but it was a second half which saw the Knights only score 17. In the second half of the game, Upson-Lee looked like a different team from the one on the floor in the first half, as the Cardinals built on their 30-28 halftime lead to defeat UL by a 59-45 score.
“We did not come out with same intensity in the second half as we started the game with,” said Knights head coach Darrell Lockhart. “They made some adjustments at halftime, and we did not make counter adjustments. We did not execute our game plan in the second half, and that was the difference in the game.”
Upson-Lee’s back court took control of the game early in the first quarter, with buckets coming from Kenderius Pennyman and O’qualon Harris. However, soon after the Knights took a 10-4 lead, the Cardinals started use their height advantage in the post to win the rebounding battle. Many of the Cardinals’ first half points came off of offensive rebounds, and at the end of the first quarter the Knights held an 18-14 lead.
Jonesboro continued to try and play the Knights in a man-to-man defense, but Upson-Lee seemed to thrive against the Cardinals’ defense with their quickness. Upson-Lee built a 28-22 lead with just over two minutes to go before halftime, but a sudden change in Jonesboro’s strategy made all the difference in the world for the Cardinals, and shut down the Knights offense.
After a full timeout from Jonesboro, the Cardinals came out defensively in a 3-2 zone, something which gave the Knights fits. While in the zone defense the Cardinals were able to force the Knights into bad shots and turnovers. Jonesboro went on an 8-0 run to end the first half of the game, and take a 30-28 lead at halftime.
In the second half of the game, Jonesboro once again came out in a 3-2 zone, and once again the Knights seemed frustrated offensively. The Cardinals’ zone defense brought the pace of the game to a screeching halt, something that proved beneficial for Jonesboro. The Cardinals zone kept the Knights at bay, as Upson-Lee only scored six points in the third quarter, and trailed 44-34.
In the fourth quarter, the Knights were able to get a few buckets in transition, but were forced to foul towards the end of the game. Unfortunately for Upson-Lee, the Cardinals were able to make many of their free throws to seal a 59-45 victory.
David Marshall led the way for the Knights with 12 points, while Malik Crafter, O’qualon Harris, and Dinasis Walker each tallied eight points in the loss. Kenderius Pennyman added five points, and Antonie Miller chipped in with four points in the game for the Knights.
Upson-Lee will host Spalding (7-7, 5-3) in another Region 4 game tonight. Game time for the important region game is slated for 7:30 p.m.