Mick Shannon’s final fourth-quarter field goal looked doomed from the very beginning. The Johnson guard shot the ball off balance in the lane with a defender in his face. The shot appeared to have a better chance of getting blocked than going in.
Even his own teammates were getting in position for the rebound.
"I was trying to make the shot and draw the foul," Shannon said.
But instead of fighting for a rebound, the shot went in and helped the Knights build a double-digit lead en route to a 75-71 win against West Hall on Tuesday night in Oakwood.
Johnson (8-9, 2-3 Region 7B-AAA) earned the win behind a 24-point effort in third quarter. Knights senior shooting guard Brandon Sloan scored eight of his 16 points in the third quarter. He started the Knights’ third-quarter push on their opening possession when he opted out of a 3-point shot and passed it to a wide-open Robert Taylor for a layup under the net.
Taylor finished the game with 16 points and six rebounds. He scored six points in the third quarter.
"We’re striving to play smart as a team," Johnson coach Jeff Steele said. "I didn’t think we played smart in the first half, but we made some big shots in the second half.
"This win is big for our team, but they’re all big at this point."
In the big picture, this win is even bigger for the Knights because it puts them right back on track with back-to-back subregion wins, after a seven-game losing streak that ended against Pickens last week. Johnson will look to make it three in a row Friday night at West Forsyth.
After falling down by as much as 16 points, the Spartans (9-8, 3-2) still made a game out of it. Shunquez Stephens, Ricky Vital and Derek Weatherly all hit quick baskets midway through the fourth quarter, and Vital added a 3-pointer with 2:47 to play to narrow the gap to 65-60.
Vital scored 20 for the Spartans and Weatherly added 17. Tray Malone and Stephens each finished with nine.
But Sloan sealed the Knights’ victory with a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws in the final 2:22. He hit all four of his free throws in the fourth period.
Devaris Finch finished with 10 points for Johnson.
"This win was huge for our team," Sloan said. "I feel like we’re getting back in a groove."
West Hall visits Flowery Branch at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
Johnson girls 38, West Hall 31
Jordan Gustavel never stopped fighting for the Lady Knights (3-13, 2-3) on a possession late in the second quarter. She missed her first attempt on a short jump shot, but pulled down her own rebound.
She followed with a second attempt that yielded the same result. Third attempt, missed again. But on Gustavel’s fourth shot she hit the basket that keyed an 11-2 Johnson run before halftime.
"Jordan is a warrior for us," Johnson coach Michael Youngblood said. "Our team comes and goes with her."
Gustavel led Johnson with 12 points and Aryelle Bagley scored nine points (three 3-pointers).
West Hall chipped away at Johnson’s lead in the third quarter, but a 3-pointer from Gustavel with 3:40 left to play helped preserve the Lady Knights’ win. The Lady Spartans (8-9, 2-3) had ample chances to take the lead but failed to capitalize with missed shots and 16 turnovers on the night.
Gustavel put the finishing touches on the victory with a steal in the final minute of the game.
"Johnson played a great game defensively," West Hall coach Lynn Jarrett said. "We had several chances to take the lead, but the turnovers killed us.
Jayla Moon led the Lady Spartans with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
West Hall visits Flowery Branch at 7 p.m. Friday night.