Knights knock out Tigers
Class 2A Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s Mr. Basketball finalist KJ Johnson put on show for the packed house in the Region 6-AA semifinals at Nolensville Tuesday night, fighting off double and triple teams by the Knights’ defense to score a game-high 43 points, but it wasn’t enough in a season-ending 72-64 loss for Marshall County (22-10).
“I told the guys after the game that I appreciated all their hard work and they left it all out there on the floor,” first-year Marshall County coach Lavon King said. “That’s all I can ask as a coach.”
Nolensville (16-13) took down the top-seed Tigers utilizing a balanced offensive attack with four players in double figures in the scoring column with Nathan Foutch leading the way with 18 points, while Nate Bloedorn added 17, Jayden Watkins netted 11, and Zach Campbell had 10.
The Knights play for the region title on their home court Thursday night versus Fairview, who beat Murfreesboro Central Magnet 41-38 on a last second, buzzer beating prayer by Darius James.
Johnson, who drained six 3-pointers and went a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line scored 67 percent of the Tigers’ points in the contest, singlehandedly keeping Lewisburg in the game as foul trouble mounted for the team’s post players.
Marshall County was hampered early as LaMarcus Dodson got in foul trouble and only had limited court time.
Dodson picked up two first quarter fouls and two more early in the second half before fouling out with 4:26 remaining in the contest and the Tigers down by just two points.
Marshall County’s other main post player Jaleel Howard also fouled out for the Tigers in what seemed like an unevenly called game, especially in the low post where neither of Nolensville’s twin towers of Nate Bloedorn and Brandon Wharton had more than four fouls in the contest.
MCHS was whistled for 11 fouls in the second half to five for Nolensville as the Knights went 16-for-20 from the free throw line, while the Tigers made 10-of-11 from the charity stripe.
Johnson came out on fire, converting a trio of three-point plays on drives to hoop, including a pair in the first quarter when he had eight points.
Dodson scored all four of his points in the game in the opening period and Keshun Gentry had four as the Tigers led 16-15 at the end of the first stanza.
Johnson took the ball to the rack in period number two, scoring on four trips to the dish and converting all five foul shots he attempted as Marshall County held on for a 32-31 lead at the intermission.
Bloedorn was held scoreless in the low post in the first half, but he went to work with nine points in the third quarter and sent Dodson to the bench with four fouls as the Knights took a one-point, 48-47 lead to the fourth quarter.
“I thought the second half, their post players took over the game size wise and I knew that was something that could hurt us all year,” King said. “We went in there and battled, but didn’t have enough to complete the game.”
“Our big guy (Dodson) only played about 10 minutes and when you got somebody like that, you need him on the floor as much as possible.”
Canelius Turner and Johnson banged home back-to-back 3-pointers to begin the fourth quarter as the Tigers took a 53-48 lead before the Knights went on a 14-5 run that put them in front 62-58 with four and half minutes remaining in the contest.
Johnson hit another trey and Bloedorn scored in the low post minus Dodson to make it 64-61.
Somehow Johnson beat three Nolensville defenders and came out of a defensive cocoon to drill a long bomb, tying the game at 64 with 2:47 left in the game.
Marshall County did not score again as the Knights put the lights out on the Tigers’ season with an 8-0 run to end the contest.
“You always want to go a step further, but you know, the cards weren’t in our favor today so we just have to accept it and move on and prepare and get better for next year,” King said. “We have a lot of kids coming back, we still have to find some size as far as inside because that is the same group as far as with them (Nolensville), they are all juniors and they are the same guys they are gonna have to face, so it is just something we have to work on to be successful.”
Dodson and Howard are the only two Tigers graduating this season.
Nolensville 15 16 17 24-72
Marshall County 16 16 15 17-64
Nolensville (72): Nathan Foutch 18, Nate Bloedorn 17, Jayden Watkins 11, Zach Campbell 10, Brandon Wharton 6, Hudson Stromen 6, Reese Gilbert 4.
Free Throws (16-for-20): Foutch 10-for-10, Gilbert 2-for-2, Wharton 2-for-2, Bloedorn 1-for-3, Watkins 1-for-1.
3-Point goals (2): Stromen 2.
Marshall County (64): KJ Johnson 43, Keshun Gentry 8, Canelius Turner 6, LaMarcus Dodson 4, Jaleel Howard 3.
Free Throws (10-for-11): Johnson 7-for-7, Howard 3-for-4.
3-Point goals (8): Johnson 6, Turner 2.
Halftime Score: Marshall County 32, Nolensville 31.