Perfect record still intact, the Johnson boys will go for the Region 8-AAAA championship tonight in Oakwood.
It wouldn’t have played out so favorably for the second-ranked Knights had it not been a third quarter that was crisp on both the offensive and defensive end Friday against North Hall in the tournament semifinals.
Despite a double-digit lead early, Johnson (26-0) trailed much of the second quarter before rallying to win 68-59. Now, the undefeated Knights are now guaranteed to open up the postseason at home with the top seed.
“This is amazing,” said Johnson senior Ty Cockfield, who scored a game-high 30 points. “This right here is what every kid dreams of.”
Standing in Johnson’s way of defending the region title is a game against Buford at 8:30 Saturday night in Oakwood. With the loss, the Trojans will face Monroe Area in the third-place game at 5:30 Saturday in Oakwood.
Trailing 30-26 at halftime, Johnson grabbed the lead early in the third period with baskets from four different players in the first three minutes of the second half. Cockfield delicate dunk capped a 13-3 scoring run in the first half of the second.
The Knights’ pace in the second half was set around playing more intensive on the defensive end, according to Knights coach Jeff Steele.
“We were able to jump the hand-off and scored six or eight quick points off of that,” said Steele.
Andrew Sims’ basket in the second minute of the third quarter gave the Knights their first lead of the second half at 31-30. Johnson never trailed the rest of the way.
Sims scored all eight of his points in the third quarter. Cockfield also helped Johnson’s case during the third quarter with a basket and foul shot, along with a layup at the buzzer to make its lead 13 going into the final period.
Helping the effort, Johnson was a perfect 5 of 5 from the free throw line in the third quarter. The Knights finished the game 16 of 19 on shots from the charity stripe.
Roderick English also played well for the Knights, scoring 15 points.
The third-quarter pace was enough to seal the win for Johnson, despite North Hall proficiently draining 3-pointers during the second quarter.
Harrison Harper’s second 3-pointer, this time at the buzzer, gave North Hall a 30-26 lead going into the half.
The Trojans’ first lead came on Brock Wingo’s first 3-pointer early in the second quarter. Wingo drained another 3-pointer a minute later to put North Hall up by four points.
Carson Heinen led the Trojans (14-13) with 18 points, while Harper and Evan Easton each scored 11.
Johnson led the game 11-0 early, with the help of a pair of 3-pointers by Cockfield.
Steele knows Johnson will have to neutralize Buford’s size advantage in the chammpionship game in order to win the region championship. The Knights defeated the Wolves 100-89 when they met earlier this season.
“Playing Buford is going to be a difficult challenge,” said Steele. “They have some great players.”
CHESTATEE GIRLS 54, NORTH HALL 41: Sophomore Brooklyn Popham hit all four of her 3-point attempts in the first quarter Friday, sending the Lady War Eagles (16-11) back to the Region 8-AAAA championship game.
The Lady War Eagles will face Buford in the championship game at 7 Saturday night in Oakwood. The winner will move to the state tournament as the No. 1 seed, while the loser will open at home as the second seed.
It’s a chance at a repeat region title for the Lady War Eagles, who won the 8-AAAA crown last season. Chestatee is already assured a home playoff contest for the third time in school history.
“It feels great to have the chance to play for the region championship,” said Popham, who was two points shy of the season-high 17 she scored against White County. “This was the best we’ve played as a team all season.”
Chestatee led by as much as 22-8 in the opening quarter, then withstood North Hall’s fourth-quarter attempt at a rally.
Taylor Anne Kelley hit a pair of 3-point baskets for the Lady Trojans late and finished with a game-high 19 points.
Sadie Cleveland’s basket for North Hall (16-11) with 3:20 left in the game got the deficit within eight points, 46-38.
Chestatee’s Dawndria Bell knocked down a wide-open 3-pointer 30 seconds later, putting Chestatee back up by 11.
Kayla Watson scored 11 for Chestatee, while Bell had 10.
Cleveland scored 11 for North Hall. The Lady Trojans will face Madison County in the third-place game at 4 p.m. Saturday in Oakwood.
BUFORD GIRLS 51, MADISON COUNTY 18: Camille Anderson knocked down a pair of consecutive 3-point attempts in the opening quarter, while Corey Staples scored six points in the paint early as the top-ranked Lady Wolves raced to a 20-point lead before halftime.
With the win, Buford moves on to face Chestatee in the region championship game. Madison County will play North Hall in the third-place game at 4 p.m. in Oakwood.
After a slow start shooting and running its offense, Anderson knocked down the two long-range shots, giving the Lady Wolves a 12-5 edge late in the opening period. Staples picked up a steal on Madison County’s next possession, then dished it underneath the basket to Katy Bisges for a score.
Anderson, who finished with 12 points, grabbed the rebound and put it back for the basket to make it a 28-8 lead in the final two minutes of the first half. Staples led the way for the Lady Wolves (24-3) with 16 points.
“Corey does a great job setting the tempo for us and played really well,” said Buford coach Gene Durden. “We just have to learn to make better decisions on the court and how we handle the ball.”
The Lady Wolves are playing for their fourth consecutive region championship. Durden said Chestatee is a team which is fully capable of claiming the region title.
“Chestatee’s a team that is peaking at the right time,” Durden said.
BUFORD BOYS 74, MONROE AREA 59: Five scorers in double figures proved enough to send the Wolves (15-11) to a tournament semifinal win Friday in Oakwood. Kyrin Galloway led the Wolves, who held a hefty rebounding edge, with 12 points and 11 boards.
With the win, Buford moves on to face Johnson in the championship game at 8:30 tonight. Monroe Area (16-11) will play North Hall in the third-place game at 5:30 p.m. today at Johnson.
In the fourth quarter, the Wolves scored the majority of their points on second, third or fourth attempts around the rim.
Sahil Patel (10 points) put in a shot late in the fourth quarter, after three Buford misses, to keep its lead at 17 late in the fourth quarter. Galloway had a similar basket seconds later for the Wolves.
Tre Hansbrough led Buford in scoring with 14 points, Taylor Mills scored 12 and Aaron Auer finished with 10.
Marquez Williams scored a game-high 16 for the Purple Hurricanes, while Willie Taylor chipped in 13.