It’s almost unheard of for any team to beat another team three times in one season, regardless of the sport played. However, that was the feat the Upson-Lee Runnin’ Knights achieved after a 70-62 victory over the Lamar County Trojans in Barnesville on Saturday night.
Unfortunately for the Knights, they suffered a 72-57 loss to sub-region foe Riverdale at home on Friday night. The split over the weekend brings the Knights season record to 8-7 overall and 3-5 in the region.
“We took a tough loss Friday night against a very good Riverdale team,” said Knights head coach Darrell Lockhart. “They are very well coached, and they have a lot of big athletic guys. We hung with them for a long time, but in the end our inability to rebound the ball and defend their post players proved costly. I am proud of the way the guys fought back on Saturday night, getting a victory over a rival team. The guys came out and played hard from the opening tip. We need to do that more often.”
On Friday night, Upson-Lee faced off with the top-ranked team in the sub-region in the Raiders from Riverdale. The Knights took the game to the Raiders early in the first quarter, building a 10-4 lead. From that point on, the Raiders outscored Upson-Lee 15-1 to end the first period. The Knights struggled to contain Riverdale’s Quincy January. The 6’5” junior finished the game with 25 points, including several rim-rocking dunks.
Trailing 19-11 after the first quarter, Upson-Lee and the Raiders played each other fairly close in the second quarter. The Knights struggled from the floor offensively for much of the quarter, but went on an 8-2 run to close out the half, trailing Riverdale 35-25 at halftime.
In the third quarter of the game, the Raiders did not deviate from their plan of getting the ball to their talented big man. January scored 12 of his game high 25 points in the period, as the Raiders outscored the Knights 18-12, taking a 53-37 lead at the start of the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter Upson-Lee played their best basketball, outscoring Riverdale 20-19. However, the lead the Raiders built earlier in the game was more than enough to earn them the 72-57 victory.
Freshman David Marshall led the Knights with 18 points, 13 coming in the first half of the game. Another freshman, O’Qualon Harris added 10 points, reaching double figures for the fourth consecutive game. Corey Moss, who recently joined the team after playing on some All-Star Football Games, scored nine points in his season debut. Kenderious Pennyman also scored nine points, Jalen Searcy finished with eight points, while knocking down (2) three pointers, Adric Johnson added three points, and Toby Fuentes finished the game with seven assists and five steals.
After the tough loss on Friday night, Upson-Lee traveled up Hwy. 36 to take on a Lamar County team which they had beaten twice already, and on Saturday night it was the same result, a Knights’ victory.
David Marshall owned the paint for the Knights in the first half, and the Trojans had no answer for him. Marshall, who finished the game with a team high 19 points, scored 15 of those points in the first half. The Knights opened up a 14-2 lead on the Trojans with just 3:21 left to go in the opening period. Upson-Lee led the Trojans 23-13 after one period of play.
The Knights would need that 10-point lead, as the two teams played very evenly the rest of the game. Both teams scored 29 points in the second half of the game, and the Trojans outscored the Knights 20-18 in the second quarter, but Upson-Lee held off a late rally by the Trojans for a 70-62 lead.
Marshall’s 19 points paced the Knights for the second straight game. Freshman O’Qualon Harris reached double figures for the fifth straight game with 16 points, Jalen Searcy netted eight points, Kenderious Pennyman added seven points, Caleb Ward scored five points, Travis Pittman finished with four points, Toby Fuentes and Corey Moss each added three points, Trey Bussey and Adric Johnson scored two points, while Ja’Qualon Willis chipped in with one point in the victory.
The victory brings the Knights record to 8-7 on the season, as they prepare to face the No. 7 state-ranked Cardinals from Jonesboro High School in Clayton County tonight. The Cardinals (13-4) are among the state leaders in points allowed this season. Their tough defense has held opponents to only 44 points per game. The Cardinals are No. 1 in class AAAA in points allowed and No. 2 overall in the state in any classification. Allatoona High School (42 points per game allowed) is the only team in the state that allows less points than the Cards.
Tip-off for the Region 4B showdown is slated for 7:30 p.m. tonight in Jonesboro.