Fresh off a region championship and with all but one starter back, expectations are skyrocketing for the Johnson boys basketball team in the 2013-2014 season.
Hitting triple digits in the third outing of the year certainly helps to reinforce just how good the Knights could be.
They rattled South Cobb 101-78 in their home opener and their first game of their own tournament in Oakwood.
Johnson (1-2), which reached 100 points once last season en route to a 24-5 record, led the entirety of the contest and had four players reach double figures for its first win of the year.
“We have a tough schedule and started out 0-2, so it’s good to get a win,” said Johnson coach Jeff Steele, whose team plays again today at home against North Cobb. “Hopefully we can go get another one and enjoy this Thanksgiving.”
Despite a large cast of returning starters, the Knights have been forced to adjust to a smaller personnel on the court. Last year’s lone senior, 6-foot-6 center Montrell McKenzie, averaged double-double numbers throughout the 2012-2013 season and continued his career at Barton College in Kansas.
The tallest player on this year’s team is only 6-foot-4, but size didn’t appear to be an issue Monday night.
“It’s an adjustment without (McKenzie) because you have to do things differently,” Steele said. “You can’t be loose defensively, because we don’t have that shot blocker. He gave us a steady 15 rebounds a game. That’s something we’re focusing on now — rebounding defensively as a team.”
No one had a brighter night than junior Ty Cockfield, who led Johnson with 28 points, including 16 in the first half. He also recorded seven assists.
He scored 12 consecutive points for the Knights midway through the second quarter to completely erase South Cobb’s only legitimate threat to Johnson’s lead.
“He can score, he can slash and get it done offensively,” Steele said. “But if he wants to be the player I think he wants to be, he’s going to have to improve defensively.”
Carter Cagle scored 19 points and hit a team-high five 3-pointers, while James Hodges took care of business in the paint for 14. Daemonte Nicholson added 10 points and six rebounds.
Steele was more than satisfied with the offensive effort. Now he just wants to see his team improve defensively before they enter the rigorous portion of their schedule that includes the Lanierland Tournament next month and Region 8-AAAA play beginning in January.
“I’m not so much worried about the points — I’m worried about how many we give up,” Steele said. “We’re constantly trying to improve in that area.”
Johnson took care of business early in the game, jumping out to a 20-9 lead after one quarter thanks to some pinpoint shooting from arc in the opening minutes of the contest. The Knights scored 12 of their first 14 points off 3-pointers, including two from Cagle.
South Cobb answered with a 12-6 run to open the second quarter, putting the Eagles back within five at 26-21 after by pair of quick threes from James Coats.
Cockfield responded accordingly with his 12-point scoring run — most of it from the free-throw line — and the Knights took a 37-21 advantage.
South Cobb only scored six more points in the half, and the Knights went up 49-27 at halftime.
The Eagles played a better third quarter, outscoring Johnson 25-21, but they still couldn’t get any closer than within 15 of the lead. The Knights took a 70-52 advantage into the fourth, where they outscored South Cobb again, 30-26, with their starters pulled for the majority of the quarter.
James Coats led the Eagles with 20 points. Josh Holiday scored 18 and Wesley Ingram had 12.
SOUTH COBB GIRLS 56, JOHNSON 29: Hannah Hester scored seven points to lead the Lady Knights in their first tournament game Monday night.
Johnson, looking to improve on a winless season last year, trailed 23-13 at halftime but could not catch the Lady Eagles down the stretch.
Sarah Williams added six points for the Lady Knights, and Kiara Dudley provided five.
Johnson continues tournament play at 6 p.m. today against M.L. King.