All Johnson coach Jeff Steele wanted for senior wing Roderick English was to pick up 16 rebounds in Tuesday’s home game against North Hall.
English went a little off-script, scoring 26 points on six 3-pointers with 12 boards to help lead Johnson (21-0, 5-0 Region 8-AAAA) to a 81-53 win over the visiting Trojans. English scored his 1,000th career point for the Knights in the third quarter on his fifth trey of the night, which guaranteed that Johnson would remain undefeated so far this season.
“Coach just told me to focus on my rebounding and the points would come,” said English. “That’s what happened. I felt really good, because this is our gym, this is our sanctuary, all of our blood, sweat and tears.”
Tuesday’s win marked the 12th time in 13 games that Johnson has won by double digits heading back to Dec. 20. The high-flying Knights are just three wins away from finishing their first unbeaten regular season in program history while locking up a No. 1 seed in the upcoming region tournament.
It didn’t take long for English to showcase his accuracy against the Trojans (11-12, 2-4), who have lost four of their last five games. The senior scored three of his six treys in the first quarter to boost Johnson up by six early.
Carson Heinen (24 points) paced the Trojans early with several quick-trigger mid-range jumpers. But North Hall’s defense was no match for senior guard Ty Cockfield (game-high 30 points, 7 rebounds), who converted a silky transition layup to hand Johnson its first double-digit lead of the night with 6:29 left in the second.
His most useful contribution was from the free throw line, where Cockfield sunk all eight of his attempts to extend the Johnson lead. He scored two field goals on either side of his foul shots to end the first half with 19 points and help Johnson to a 17-point halftime lead.
“I was pretty happy with today,” said Steele after the game. “We rebounded extremely well and had them focus on the fundamental parts of the game. If they keep focusing on defense and rebounding, they can do something.”
Johnson finishes the regular season with Friday’s home game against Chestatee and road trips to Stephens County (Feb. 3) and Monroe Area (Feb. 6). Meanwhile, North Hall ends the season with a road trip to Chestatee (Feb. 3) and a home game with Stephens County (Feb. 6). The Trojans are 3-6 in road games.
English scored his 1,000th point on the second of his two third-quarter treys. His first pushed Johnson’s lead to 50-30 with 4:50 left in the quarter while the second sparked a 7-2 run which was capped off by a dominating dunk by Cockfield to push the lead to 25.
“Coach told me to shoot with an open mind, to believe that everything was going to go in,” English said. “It’s crazy, really crazy because in my whole four years, we haven’t had an undefeated season. It’s great to do that in my senior year. I think we can get much better, but we’ve got to stay focused.”
Late in the fourth, Steele rested many of his starters, who will need to put up extended minutes in future playoff games.
Senior Ladarius Odem (6 points) made an impact by scoring four points of Johnson’s 11-3 run in the middle of the fourth, forcing North Hall to call a timeout.
It was the first game since senior standout Cockfield picked up his second college offer from Stetson, to go along with a previous offer from Cleveland State. A scout from Florida A&M was also on hand at Johnson to watch Cockfield’s 30-point game. He received an offer to the school after the game.
Steele said he’s looking forward to his team reaching the postseason, especially if it means staving off complacency from a team that has consistently put up big numbers over region opponents.
“They know they can’t be complacent,” said Steele. “I’m ready for it to be here, but my motto is that we take it one game at a time.”
NORTH HALL GIRLS 47, JOHNSON 24: A stingy North Hall defense held the Lady Knights to a single field goal in the second quarter while its offense scored six 3-pointers in the first half to secure a fourth region win.
The Lady Trojans (13-10, 4-2 Region 8-AAAA) used an 11-2 run in the second quarter to pull away and ultimately trounce Johnson on the road. North Hall began the second half with a 13-0 wave that gave the visitors a game-high 31-point lead with a minute to go in the third.
Johnson’s starters scored the final 11 points of the game to cut the lead to 23 against North Hall’s bench, but the win was already ensured.
Taylor Anne Kelley led the Lady Trojans with 18 points, while Katie Wiese led the Lady Knights with nine points. Four North Hall players scored at least two treys in the win.
The one-sided victory gives North Hall a good chance at securing a high seed in the upcoming region tournament behind Buford (19-3, 6-0).
“There’s still a lot of basketball left to be played,” said North Hall coach Kristi House. “We’ve still got a chance for second. This team has been talking about gearing up at the right time and hopefully we’re doing that.”
North Hall has won two of its last three games, while Johnson (5-18, 0-5) has lost its last four contests.
The Lady Trojans will finish the regular season with home tips against Chestatee (Feb. 3) and Stephens County (Feb. 6).
The Lady Knights have a home game against Chestatee on Jan. 30 before hitting the road to take on Stephens County (Feb. 3) and Monroe Area (Feb. 6).