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Boys Athlete of the Week: Johnson's Ty Cockfield

Knights guard scored 26 points in back-to-back Lanierland games

POSTED: December 23, 2013 5:32 p.m.

When Johnson boys basketball coach Jeff Steele preaches the importance of consistency, Ty Cockfield listens.

The Knights’ junior guard demonstrated his ability to string together quality performances in last week’s Lanierland Tournament. He scored 26 points in Thursday’s semifinal against Gainesville and again in the championship game Saturday against East Hall, earning a tournament MVP award in the process.

For his efforts, Cockfield is the The Times’ Boys Athlete of the Week.

“Coach (Steele) told us to be consistent,” Cockfield said after Johnson’s 76-71 win over the Vikings. “And we work hard at being consistent. We just keep getting better every day, and that’s pretty much it.”

Cockfield’s performance in the championship game helped end a 24-year drought since Johnson’s last Lanierland title. He was 13 of 14 from the free-throw line, seven coming in a tightly-contested fourth quarter.

The Knights were up 72-69 with a minute left in the game, but East Hall was also shooting well late. Cockfield made two trips to the line and hit all four shots, keeping his team one step ahead until the final buzzer.

“He stepped up on the line,” Steele said.

When the clock finally read zero, Cockfield couldn’t contain his excitement any longer.

As his team erupted off the bench with Johnson High students storming the court to celebrate the long-awaited Lanierland victory, Cockfield ran to center court and sprung into a backflip.

“I was excited,” Cockfield said. “I do that after every big game. It just made me feel good.”

Steele didn’t actually see the post-game acrobatics, but he cringed at the thought of the Johnson star potentially injuring himself in such a manner.

“If I had seen him do that, I probably would’ve caught him,” Steele said.

In Thursday’s game against Gainesville, Cockfield scored 11 points in the fourth quarter alone, helping Johnson overcome a sluggish third quarter that saw the Knights’ 41-33 halftime lead shrink after a sudden swing of momentum.

Johnson went on to win the 87-76, its highest-scoring game of the tournament, securing the Knights’ spot in the finals.

Another big outing two days later made sure Johnson avenged a one-point loss to North Hall in last year’s finals, a game which Cockfield was held to six points.

“I told these guys before the game started that if we got this, it would be something they would remember for the rest of their lives,” Steele said. “Their kids will be playing in this tournament.

“This tournament is older than I am. That’s hard to fathom.”

With Lanierland now in the rear-view mirror, Johnson sets its sights on another tournament, the Duluth Jingle Jam, which begins Friday in Gwinnett County. The Knights will play a pair of Class AAAAAA teams: Grayson and Centennial.

It’s sure to be a challenge, but with a seven-game winning streak at hand and an average of 78 points per game, Cockfield and his high-scoring teammates are a handful for any team to slow down.

They currently have four players averaging double figures, including Cockfield’s 18.7 points per game. James Hodges leads the team with 19.3 points per game, and Carter Cagle and Justin Jones are also averaging more than 10 a game this season.

As a result, winning is quickly becoming an expectation for Johnson, which went 24-5 and won a Region 8-AAAA title a year ago. Even as a sophomore, Cockfield was a major contributor to that team, averaging 16.6 points and 4.7 assists per game.

The Lanierland title this season only confirmed the Knights’ return to relevancy in Hall County basketball, and possibly at the state level as well.

“When you get in tough situations down the road, maybe in the state tournament or even the region tournament, we have some something we pull from,” Steele said. “That’s so valuable. We have an atmosphere and experience like this that we can pull from.”


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