OAKWOOD -- Johnson's first foray into playoff basketball in three years was rudely interrupted by Shaw Wednesday night.
The Knights went uncharacteristically cold from the field and could not crack a tenacious Raiders defense in a 54-49 loss at the Johnson gym to knock them out of the Class AAAA tournament.
The Raiders (18-10) looked anything but a No. 4 seed as they outrebounded Johnson and hit several key free throws down the stretch to pull off the upset.
Disappointed Knights coach Jeff Steele said it was a perfect storm against them.
"In the (state) playoffs they always let you play more and it's more physical. Our guys didn't adjust like they needed too," Steele said. "Plus, you can't give up offensive rebounds and you have to make free throws. (Shaw) beat us in every category."
Despite all of that, the Knights had an eight-point lead at 22-14 early in the second quarter. They just couldn't add on as the Raiders used a quick trapping defense to frustrate the Johnson offense.
Shaw held Johnson leading scorer Ty Cockfield to just seven points, his third lowest output of the season, and held Montrell McKenzie to just four second half points, two coming on a dunk with three seconds left.
They also forced six turnovers, including four steals, in the second quarter to spark an 11-2 run to grab their first lead at 25-24 on a fastbreak basket by Brandon Jackson. McKenzie scored on a nice lob pass from Drew Dunham to reclaim the lead for Johnson with 34 seconds left in the half but Jackson gave Shaw a 27-26 halftime lead with a tip-in basket at the buzzer.
Johnson would claw back in the third quarter with a 7-0 run to take a 37-35 lead, but Shaw's Joshua Jackson drained a 3-pointer from the left corner at the buzzer to reclaim the lead. The Raiders would never trail again.
"Give Shaw credit. They made plays when they needed to," Steele said. "But I really feel like we beat ourselves. We didn't guard on that 3-pointer to end the quarter and that killed our momentum. I don't think we were patient enough to get Montrell more involved. But hopefully we'll learn from this for next year.
"I just hate it for our guys because they had an awesome year. I hate it for Montrell because he was finally getting to play a playoff game. I think our inexperience may have hurt us a little at the end."
With Shaw leading 46-41 late, Johnson appeared poised for the comeback. Cockfield converted a three-point play and then Dunham made a beautiful steal moments later and was fouled hard while trying to score.
Carter Cagle would replace Dunham, who suffered a brief leg injury, and hit 1-of-2 free throws to pull the Knights within 46-45 with 1:15 left. But the delay while they attended to Dunham hurt Johnson's momentum and Shaw was able close out the game with an 8-4 run, including hitting 6-of-8 free throws in the final minute.
Johnson, meanwhile was just 6-of-12 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
Shaw was led Cedarius Brantley with 19 points. Joe Parker added 11. Chandler Whittlesey had five steals and four assists as he hounded the Johnson guards all night.
McKenzie finished with 12 points and seven rebounds in his final game for Johnson. James Hodges came off the bench to score 12 to go with three rebounds for the Knights.
Shaw showed early on that it was not going to be a No. 4 seed pushover right from the beginning. The Raiders matched Johnson basket for basket until the Knights used an 8-2 run over the final 1:42 of the first quarter to take a 16-10 lead.
Johnson would extend its lead to 22-14 midway through the second quarter as Rod English sliced his way through the defense for a three-point play that followed a long 3-pointer by Cagle. The Knights defense held Shaw to just one field goal over a five minute stretch, sparked by English, who had four first half blocks.