Tuesday October 6th, 2015 6:48PM

Boys basketball: Knights survive Lanier to stay perfect in 8-AAAA

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
OAKWOOD -- For parts of its key Region 8-AAAA matchup with Lanier Friday night, Johnson looked like a team ready to make a statement. At others, the Knights resembled a team that had forgotten how to play.

But when it mattered most, the Knights rose to the occasion, using a 14-0 run in the final 4:24 of the game to pull away for a tougher-than-the-score-indicated 61-44 win over the Longhorns at the Johnson gym.

Both teams came in unbeaten in region play, along with Chestatee and Eastside, who were playing each other in Conyers.

It was the sixth straight win for the Knights (16-4, 4-0 Region 8-AAAA) who are assured of no worse than a tie atop the standings before they take a week off. They will play host to Eastside next Friday.

"This was a big win for us," Johnson coach Jeff Steele said. "We want to finish up high in the standings and we needed this one. Eastside is the real deal.

"They resemble some of the old East Hall teams with their quickness and pressure defense. They will definitely press us so it was good to see that because we haven't been pressed in a while."

Johnson controlled the game for most of the first three quarters but Lanier (11-9, 2-1) changed to a full court press trailing 45-36 heading into the fourth quarter. The Longhorns forced four turnovers in the opening minutes and would pull to within 47-44 on a basket by Mateusz Debczynski with 4:24 left in the game.

The Knights would regroup, however, as Drew Dunham sparked a 6-0 run in a 52 second span. He would score off an offensive rebound, then swiped a Lanier pass for a fastbreak basket, and then fed Montrell McKenzie on a nice pass that would lead to two free throws and a 53-44 lead.

"I was not happy with how we let them back in the game," Steele said. "We panicked a little when they pressed us and that bothered me. But I did like how we calmed down and got back under control.

"We needed a spark and Drew gave it to us. But we'll have to correct some of these things by next week."

Normally a sore spot for Johnson, the Knights helped put the game away going 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter and were 15-of-21 for the game, which elicited a fist-pump from Steele.

"It's about time," he said.

The win was also the 200th victory for Steele in his 14 seasons at Johnson. He downplayed it a bit but smiled when assistant coach Michael Parker pointed it out.

"It's nice," he said. "I've had some good players over the years. They deserve the credit."

Johnson grabbed an early 6-1 lead behind McKenzie, who had four points and three quick rebounds. But the Longhorns forced two Johnson turnovers in a 7-0 run to grab an 8-6 lead.

Ty Cockfield then got the Knights going. He scored on two consecutive possessions, had two steals, and then dished out two assists in a 14-0 Johnson run that extended into the second quarter for a 20-8 lead. Lanier would not get closer than 10 points the rest of the first half.

Johnson would push its lead to 31-15 late in the second quarter on a Dunham steal and layup and took a 35-21 lead into halftime.

McKenzie had a solid first half with 12 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks before picking up his third foul late in the second quarter. Cockfield had 10 points, five rebounds, two assists, and two steals in the first half for the Knights.

Johnson maintained a 10- to 12-point lead most of the third quarter until the Longhorns' Paul Webb completed a three-point play with 16 seconds left to cut it to 45-36, the closest they had been since the opening minutes of the game.

McKenzie would finish with 20 points and 15 rebounds to lead Johnson. Ty Cockfield would add 18 points and 10 rebounds and Dunham had 15 points, three assists, and three steals for the Knights.

Webb paced the Longhorns with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Andre Irvin added 10 points -- all in the second half -- for Lanier.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Bartus, Icemen shuts out Gwinnett
Garrett Bartus pitched a 42 save shutout, as the Evansville IceMen topped the Gwinnett Gladiators on a New year
10:23PM ( 1 year ago )
Gator Bowl Preview Capsule
A rematch of last year's Capital One Bowl, which Georgia won 45-31 in Orlando.
8:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Millsap's 34 leads Hawks past Celtics
Paul Millsap had season highs with 34 points and 15 rebounds as the Hawks rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 92-91 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday afternoon.
7:44PM ( 1 year ago )
Big Red Shootout: Buford foils Lady Elephants' upset bid in finale
Buford junior Camille Anderson knows to forget about the past during games.
11:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Boys basketball: Knights rebound with win over Centennial
The Johnson boys bounced back after a loss to Grayson on Friday with a 94-72 win Saturday night over Centennial in the Duluth Jingle Jam.
10:43PM ( 1 year ago )
Girls basketball: Dawson falls in Battle of States finals
Dawson County fell behind early and could not complete the comeback in a 70-65 loss to Hayesville, N.C. in the championship game of The Battle of the States Tournament Saturday night.
10:38PM ( 1 year ago )
High School Sports
Falcons place Hester on short-term IR; out until Dec. 6
The Atlanta Falcons placed wide receiver and return specialist Devin Hester on injured reserve-designated to return with a turf toe injury on Tuesday.
6:33PM ( 15 minutes ago )
Region title deciders on the line? Could well be the case for Friday
We’re past the halfway point in the season, so it’s no wonder that this week brings with it a handful of contests that could well decide the destiny of a region crown and/or playoff positioning this weekend.
4:40PM ( 2 hours ago )
Softball: Region tournaments finally back in action after rainouts
The weather has been as big a story as the teams themselves as region tournaments to fill the girls state softball brackets have been postponed twice in the last week due to rain.
12:18PM ( 6 hours ago )
Quinn getting message of starting fast through to Falcons
Coach Dan Quinn has been trying to get the Atlanta Falcons to start games fast...
11:09AM ( 7 hours ago )
Hart says Braves 'will be better' following 67-win finish
The last time the Atlanta Braves finished below 70 wins was 1990, when they were in a rebuilding process based on pitching...
9:59AM ( 8 hours ago )