KJ Johnson’s record breaking night highlights win over Vikings
It was a Friday night homecoming slugfest at the Dottie Kelso Memorial Gymnasium in Lewisburg as the Marshall County Tigers hosted the Community Vikings in a big District 12-AA clash.
It also turned into the perfect night to break a record and that’s what 2017-2018 Class 2A Mr. Basketball and Lipscomb University signee KJ Johnson did as he poured in 47 points to lead MCHS to an 81-78 win.
“We started off pretty good in the first half, they made a little run, but we kept our heads on straight and we didn’t panic or anything,” Johnson said. “My teammates really stepped up tonight.”
Johnson went a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line and knocked down six 3-pointers, including his second trey early in the second quarter that broke the all-time school scoring record of 2,442 points set by 2010-2011 Class 2A Mr. Basketball Kedren Johnson.
“It’s a blessing, I mean he was really my mentor all throughout the years and we worked so much behind closed doors,” Johnson said. “Even though we are not family, we are basically family because I am so close to him. He was the goal set for me and he really showed me his ways.”
Johnson came out of the run-out on fire as his smooth, silky shot was not even touching the net on the way through the hoop for 15 first-quarter points that came via all the tools in his arsenal with drives to the rack, pull-up jumpers that were true, and one long bomb.
“Once I’m feeling it, I mean I just play my game and it’s all in a rhythm and I just play and have fun,” Johnson said.
With the Community defense concentrating on Johnson, he pulled them in before dishing the rock that led to a 3-pointer and eight points by Keshun Gentry and a pair of layups by Canelius Turner off Johnson passes for a 27-19 lead after the first quarter.
“KJ really stepped up tonight,” Marshall County coach Lavon King said. “At the start of the first quarter they were double teaming him a lot and Keshun and Canelius really stepped up and knocked down some threes and got them out of what they were trying to do.”
With Marshall County in front 32-23 early in the second quarter, Johnson pulled up at the three-point arc on the left side of the court and buried a long 3-pointer to break the scoring record.
After the game was halted to recognize Johnson’s achievement, Community coughed the ball up and Johnson picked it up and streaked to the basket, flying in for a spectacular dunk that set the crowd on fire.
The Johnson dunk gave the Tigers a 47-23 lead and it could have sounded a death knell to the Vikings, but instead they dug in and went on a 14-7 run to cut the MCHS lead to seven points at 44-37 at the half.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Johnson midway through the third period increased Marshall County’s lead to 14 points, but once again the Vikings did not give up as they went on a huge 16-2 run, buoyed by nine Kobe Pride points to slice the Tigers’ lead to 64-61.
In a fitting end to the period, Johnson drained another 3-pointer to stave off the Vikings as the Tigers entered the fourth quarter with a 67-61 lead.
Pride, who led the Vikings in the scoring column with 27 points, came up with a monster dunk off a Marshall County missed shot to begin the fourth quarter and moments later, Tyrese Eady scored to cut Lewisburg’s lead to two points and force a Marshall County timeout with 6:33 remaining in the game.
Johnson scored out of the stoppage and a Community miscue led to a 3-pointer by the Lewisburg star point guard, giving the Tigers a five-point lead.
The Vikings responded again, cutting the MCHS lead to three points and then a single digit before Johnson hit two free throws with three minutes left in the game to make it 74-71 and force a Community timeout.
Alex Mitchell scored out of the stoppage for Community and after a five-second call on Lewisburg, Will Reid went downtown to put the Vikings in front with 1:55 left in the battle.
Keshun Gentry threw down a long 3-pointer to stave off the Community charge and after a missed Community shot, Johnson hit both ends of a crucial one-and-one opportunity from the free throw line to make it a 79-76 contest with 1:03 remaining.
Pride scored with 21.3 seconds left to get the Vikings to within one point again, but Johnson calmly nailed two more free throws and a couple of missed shots by the Vikings (14-9, 3-3) at the other end sealed the deal in the MCHS triumph.
“I told coach I wanted the ball regardless and I was going to go get it no matter how many people were guarding me,” Johnson said. “This was real big for us, they beat Nolensville the other night, so this just goes to show that we can play with anybody if we play our game.”
With the win, Marshall County evened its regular season record at 11-11 and kept pace with Nolensville (13-9, 5-1) as they both have the same district record with the Knights holding the head-to-head tiebreaker via an 87-43 win at Lewisburg on January 18.
“They (Community) don’t quit, they do a good job as far as battling,” King said. “Their post players are very strong and they did a good job tonight.”
The Tigers host Murfreesboro Central Magnet School (MCM) in a Monday night game that has been moved from Tuesday due to the projected winter weather next week.
On Friday, the Tigers travel to Chapel Hill for an intra-county rivalry bout with Forrest (5-17, 1-5)
“It was huge, it was one of those things that we knew they had beaten Nolensville, so we had a shot as far as trying to staying up there with Nolensville and we play them again,” King said. “Of course we got Central Magnet, we were down 20 points at the half versus them so we got our hands full. It’s going to be one game at a time for us.”
Nolensville beat MCM 55-41 and travels to Forrest on Tuesday and to Giles County (4-13, 1-5) on Friday.
If both hold serve in those games, the two teams meet for district supremacy on Friday night at Nolensville.
“We just have to take it one game at a time,” Johnson said. “We have to play our game and whatever happens down the road, we will have our ups and downs, but we just have to keep our head up.”
Community 19 18 24 17-78
Marshall County 27 17 23 14-81
Community (78): Kobe Pride 27, Tyrese Eady 13, Alex Mitchell 13, Corde Lane 12, Will Reid 8, Evan Petrie 3, Jackson Bailey 2.
3-Point Goals (3): Pride 2, Reid.
Free Throws (13-for-21): Pride 3-for-5, Reid 3-for-4, Lane 2-for-3, Bailey 2-for-2, Eady 1-for-4, Petrie 1-for-2, Mitchell 1-for-1.
Marshall County (81): KJ Johnson 47, Canelius Turner 16, Keshun Gentry 13, Devonte Davis 4, Silas Hurt 1.
3-Point Goals (13): Johnson 6, Turner 4, Gentry 3.
Free Throws (8-for-9): Johnson 7-for-7, Hurt 1-for-2.
Halftime Score: Marshall County 44, Community 37.