Johnson's career high 44 points propels Tigers to region title
Class AA Mr. Basketball finalist Kedren Johnson cemented his lofty standing amongst the watchful eye of the collegiate coaching fraternity Thursday night, pouring in a career high 44 points versus Spring Hill in the Region 6-AA championship game as the Tigers staved off a furious second half charge by the Raiders, holding on down the stretch for a 67-61 victory.
"We are just happy to get the win," said Johnson after the game. "I knew they were going to fight because they always fight, but I knew we were going to win because we came in here hungry and now we get to look forward to Monday night."
The win secured a home date for MCHS Monday night at Dottie Kelso Memorial Gymnasium in Lewisburg at 7:00 p.m. versus Martin Luther King Magnet School in a TSSAA sectional game.
MCHS head coach Jason Tigert said, "This is exciting, it was a goal of ours and now we are thrilled to death to host a sub-state game. We didn't care how we got it done as long as we got it done. We have got to get focused, get in the gym and work and prepare for Martin Luther King and hope everything works out all right."
Tigert added, "This the third time in four years that we will have played them in the tournament. It should be fun."
Spring Hill goes on the road, up to Nashville to face the Region 5-AA champion Maplewood Panthers.
The winners advance to the State Tournament in Murfreesboro, beginning on March 17 and the losers goes home.
It was the fourth match-up of the season between the two District 12-AA powerhouses as the Tigers got a measure of revenge for the loss to Spring Hill in the district tournament title game on February 20.
Johnson was like a queen on a chess board in the first quarter, moving in all directions with powerful drives through the defense and down the lane and when checked, he would pull up with sweet swishes through the cords.
"That was the kind of effort we needed from him (Johnson)," said Tigert. "It took every bit of that to get it done and he picked a good night to drop a career high."
The hotter he became, the more the ball went into his hands as the junior sensation controlled the tempo with 15 first quarter points.
The Raiders tried everything to stop him, but had no answer and were helpless as the Tigers jumped out to a big 22-6 lead after the first eight minutes.
A three-pointer by Spring Hill's Dathan Prewitt at the outset of the second period made it 22-9 before Johnson scored five straight for a 27-9 lead.
Moments later Johnson went to the bench when he committed his second personal foul with 4:37 left in the first half.
Johnson would not return in the half, but his teammates carried on without him and held firm to lead 35-19 at the halftime intermission.
The Raiders turned up the heat to begin the second half as Montrae Williams banged home a trey on their first touch and then Fred Roberts stole the ball from Marshall County and proceeded to rock the house with a slam dunk at the other end, making it a 35-24 ballgame.
Johnson was there once again, pulling up for a jumper that momentarily quelled the Raider charge.
Another Prewitt three-bomb cut the Tiger lead to single digits at 38-29 with just over four minutes remaining in the third period.
Moments later Williams kissed a lay-in off the glass, making it a seven point game before Johnson came up big again, scoring six points to re-build the MCHS lead to 49-37 after three quarters.
At the 6:16 mark of the fourth quarter Johnson went to the locker room to change his bloodied jersey, reappearing moments later with an unfamiliar number 4.
The Raiders kept up the pressure on the Tigers, cutting the lead to six points at 49-43 on a Kielan Blanks bucket.
A huge event in the game took place at the other end when Johnson was fouled and stepped to the line for a one and one with 5:12 left in the contest.
The first foul shot by Johnson was short, but the ball bounced directly back to him and he laid it up and in for two points and was fouled.
Johnson nailed the free throw to stop the Raider streak.
Spring Hill received a big boost when Johnson went to the bench with his fourth personal foul with 4:18 left in the game.
The Raiders took advantage of his absence, cutting deep into the Tiger lead.
Johnson returned about a minute later, but Spring Hill continued to stage the comeback and trailed by just two points at 54-52 on a Williams bucket with just over two minutes to play.
Johnson quieted the Raider surge with two free throws and then hit one of two moments later when Raider standout Fred Roberts was whistled with his fifth foul on Johnson and left the game with 2:21 remaining.
Johnson hit one of two from the line as both squads were in the double bonus.
MCHS went on to lead 58-52 on another Johnson foul shot with 1:59 left, but Williams hit two charity shots at the other end, making it 58-54.
Jamie Perryman fouled out of the ballgame at the 1:36 mark and Blanks made it a two-point game at 58-56 when he swished both free throws.
That would be the last gasp for the Raiders as Johnson sealed their fate from the free throw line, hitting 9 out of 10 free throws down the stretch to ice the game.
Jordan Anderson scored 8 points for Marshall County, Perryman and Dre Crutcher both netted 5, and Brock Spencer had one trey.
Blanks led Spring Hill with 23 points and Williams scored 19.
Johnson was named the tournament MVP after the contest and was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Tiger teammates Anderson and Perryman.
Spring Hill's Williams and Blanks also were voted to the squad, along with Dylan Pitts from Page and Aaron Hyndman from Creekwood.