OAKWOOD -- Jeff Steele is adamant that his team still has plenty to work on as it tears down the backstretch of the regular season.
But even the Johnson boys basketball coach allowed himself a little smile after watching his team dominate the "Battle of Oakwood" 82-47 over West Hall on Saturday.
"We're getting there; we're slowly improving," Steele said. "You know coaches, we're never satisfied, and there are a few things we've got to do better."
It was hard to tell as such on Saturday, particularly after the Knights (12-3) embarked on a 22-4 run over the second and third quarters that put the game firmly in Johnson's hands.
West Hall's Nic Sullens hit a short jumper with just over six minutes to play in the first half, pulling the Spartans within 21-18. But by the time Johnson's Justin Jones scored with just over five minutes to play in the third quarter, the Knights owned a 43-24 advantage.
Johnson pulled away courtesy eight made 3-pointers and James Hodges' play inside. The senior led all scorers with 20 points -- most coming in the paint -- and also grabbed 10 rebounds.
"He causes people a lot of problems because of his body control," Steele said of Hodges. "He knows the game and he always seems to be in the right place at the right time."
Rod English also helped propel the Johnson offense, scoring 17 and nabbing 13 rebounds. Carter Cagle chipped in with 11 points, while Drew Dunham and Ty Cockfield each scored 10.
West Hall stayed within striking distance throughout the first half, trailing 19-12 after the first quarter and charging to within 21-18 in the second quarter on baskets by Hunter Atkinson and Sullens. But Johnson answered with 3-pointers from Cockfield and Cagle, as well as a three-point play from Hodges to take a 36-24 halftime lead that the Spartans never threatened the rest of the way.
Tyquan Statham and Deandre Peoples each scored 11 for West Hall, while Mason Gaines and Atkinson added eight apiece.
The Spartans will look to bounce back against Dawson County on Tuesday in Oakwood.
Johnson will look to keep rolling against Lumpkin County on Tuesday in Oakwood.
WEST HALL GIRLS 60,
JOHNSON 55, OT
The Lady Knights battled the Lady Spartans to a 53-53 standstill through four quarters, but West Hall clamped down on defense in overtime, allowing just two points to pull out the victory.
In fact the two teams stayed neck-and-neck through the entire second half.
Trailing 27-26 at the half, Johnson pulled into a 35-35 tie after the third quarter. Both teams exploded for 18 points over the final eight minutes.
Maia Booker proved a key in the extra frame, however, using her speed to keep the ball away from Johnson after Jarlissa Lattimore hit a bank-shot to give West Hall a 59-55 lead with 1:09 left to play.
Booker finished with 13 points for West Hall -- which was also sparked by the outside shooting of Jensen Hall, who drained six 3-pointers to finish with 19 points. Meaghan Kelling also scored 12 points.
Sarah Williams paced Johnson with 10 points, while Katie Wiese added 15. Christy Smith also scored 12.