OAKWOOD -- If the Johnson boys basketball team was looking to make a statement to the rest of Class AAAA, it accomplished it and more after a 104-61 dismantling of Chestatee Friday night in a key Region 8-AAAA game for both teams.
The two teams were perhaps the hottest in Class AAAA over the past month with Johnson riding an eight-game winning streak and Chestatee having won eight of its last nine games coming into the contest.
Johnson coach Jeff Steele, a tough critic of his own team usually, was left with little to criticize after the Knights shot nearly 80 percent in a 34-point second quarter and held Chestatee to just 26 first half points.
"I can't complain about anything tonight," Steele said. "The thing I am most proud of is that we followed the game plan perfectly. We wanted to play to our strengths and limit theirs. One of our best games of the year."
The Knights were able to take control in the second quarter using its height to great advantage. They outrebounded Chestatee 28-7 in the first half to build a 55-26 halftime lead. They would finish with a 58-15 rebounding edge unofficially and held the War Eagles to just five 3-pointers for the game.
"We feel we have a rebounding advantage on most teams so we should be able to outrebound smaller teams like that," Steele said. "Chestatee is a good shooting team. They didn't shoot it as well tonight and hopefully our defense had something to do with that."
Ty Cockfield was the catalyst the entire game for the Knights. He finished with a game-high 25 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals. He said Eastside, which was tied with the Knights in the region standings coming into Friday's action, was on his mind.
"We knew Chestatee would be tough and we were ready," Cockfield. "But we also wanted to tell Eastside we were ready for them. Everyone says we can't beat them. We'll see next week."
The win for Johnson (19-4, 6-0 Region 8-AAAA) keep them atop the region standings with two games left. The Knights travel to Walnut Grove on Tuesday and then finish against Eastside next Thursday for what should be a showdown for the region title.
"This was a big win for us," Steele said. "But it's just one game. We have to keep it going if we want it to mean anything. These guys are hungry and are really playing hard. We'll see what happens."
Both teams came out firing in the first quarter with the lead changing hands five times with one tie in the first four minutes.
Johnson took the first lead on a Rod English free throw and then Chestatee grabbed the lead on a Keelan Passmore basket. Cockfield scored and then assisted on a Carter Cagle basket for a 5-2 Johnson lead but the War Eagles answered back with five straight points, capped by a Ryan Barnes 3-pointer. They would never lead again.
The Knights tied the game on a pair of James Hodges free throws and then Cagle highlighted a quick 10-0 run with two 3-pointers. Chestatee (11-12, 5-2) never got closer than six the rest of the way.
Johnson would close out the first quarter with a 6-2 run and then used a 19-7 run to start the second quarter to blow the game open. Cagle would again put the finishing touches on a big run with two more 3-pointers in the final 11 seconds, the last coming as time expired for a 55-26 halftime lead.
Chestatee opened the third quarter with a 9-3 run to pull within 58-35 but Johnson answered with an 8-0 run to put things out of reach.
Cagle finished with 18 points and Hodges added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Knights. English had 12 points, Montrell McKenzie had 10 points and 22 rebounds, and Drew Dunham had 10 points and six assists for Johnson.
Chestatee was paced by 14 points from Jordan DeGraff. Barnes had nine points on three 3-pointers and Justin Jones and Passmore each had eight points for the War Eagles.
Chestatee travels to Lanier on Tuesday in its season finale in a game that could determine third place in the region.