FLOWERY BRANCH — Despite scoring 25 points and pulling down 13 rebounds, Flowery Branch senior Ishmael Hollis’ biggest play of Tuesday’s game against Johnson came on the defensive end of the floor.
With the Falcons (12-11, 6-5 Region 7B-AAA) leading by three and the Knights in possession of the ball, Hollis stood his ground and took a charge from Johnson’s Tre Dudley that gave the Falcons the ball and turned the contest into a two-possession game.
“We challenged our guys to build a strong hold around the lane,” Flowery Branch coach Duke Mullis said after his team’s 55-48 win Tuesday. “For Ishmael to step up and take a charge late in the game showed a lot of heart and how much he wanted to win this game.”
Johnson coach Jeff Steele, who saw his team earn a chance to tie the game after trailing by six points with less than a minute to play, was not happy the contest was decided by a charge call.
“That’s what she called, so that’s what happened,” Steele said. “I don’t like it when officials determine the outcome of a game.”
While that call might have prevented the Knights (12-10, 7-4) from tying the game, Steele knows that poor shooting was ultimately the reason for the loss.
“You’re not going to beat anybody shooting that poorly,” said Steele, whose team shot 16 of 50 from the field and 4 of 23 from 3-point range.”
“We got some good looks,” Steele added. “They were shots that we’ve been making all year, but they just didn’t go down tonight.”
That was in large part due to Mullis’ game plan, which was to focus on the 3-point shooters and allow Dudley a little more driving room. Dudley benefited from that game plan by scoring a team-high 19 points.
“They have so many weapons and you have to pick your poison,” Mullis said of the Knights.
The Falcons limited the effectiveness of Johnson’s 3-point shooters, but the Knights had no answer for the seniors of Flowery Branch, who were playing in their final regular season home game.
Joshten Hopkins, who didn’t miss a shot in the first quarter, scored nine of his 14 points in that period. Hollis, who didn’t miss a shot in the second quarter, scored 10 of his 25 points in that period, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer that gave Flowery Branch a four-point lead.
The Falcons built an eight-point lead to start the fourth, but Johnson stepped up its defensive pressure and converted high-percentage shots to cut the deficit to three points.
But that was as close as the Knights got, and Flowery Branch sealed the win by making its last four free throw attempts.
“The seniors really wanted this win,” Mullis said. “I think we’ve picked the perfect time to play our best basketball.”
The Falcons, who visit West Forsyth at 7:30 p.m. Friday, have just one regular season game left and Mullis thinks Tuesday’s win will benefit his team come region tournament time.
“There’s a fine line between the top and bottom of this region,” Mullis said. “It’s going to come down to who can win close ball games and this win gives us confidence.”
The Knights, who were tied for first in the subregion a week ago, are now staring at a possible No. 4 seed in the region tournament.
“This was a big game,” said Steele, whose team closes out the regular season by playing host to Lambert at 7:30 p.m. Friday. “The kids played hard, but we just couldn’t execute our game plan.”
FLOWERY BRANCH GIRLS 59, JOHNSON 20: Jessica Harper scored a game-high 15 points with eight rebounds, four assists and three steals to lead the Lady Falcons to a win Tuesday in Flowery Branch.
Marissa Ivey added nine points for Flowery Branch (13-8, 6-5 Region 7B-AAA).
Lyndsey Pethel scored six points and Caitlin Sloan had three points and seven rebounds for Johnson (2-20, 0-11).
Flowery Branch visits West Forsyth and Johnson plays host to Lambert at 6 p.m. Friday.