Late heroics sends Tigers to Lyles
There is a reason why the stands are packed when KJ is balling on the court and those in attendance got their money’s worth and a couple extra bucks back Monday night at the Dottie Kelso Memorial Gymnasium in Lewisburg in a first round Region 6-AA Tournament satellite game.
Marshall County senior KJ Johnson, the reigning TSSAA Class 2A Mr. Basketball and prohibitive favorite to win the award this season, scored a game-high 41 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter and the Tigers needed every one to secure a wild 78-75 comeback win over Lewis County.
“It was a great crowd, a lot of people came out,” Johnson said. “We started out slow, but we pulled it out in the end.”
“I’m just proud we didn’t give up, we had our heads down at first but we pulled it out and came together as a team.”
Johnson scored on a three-point play the old-fashioned way with 3.1 seconds remaining in the game to finish off a 29-point fourth period for the Tigers, who advanced to the region semifinals tonight at East Hickman High School versus the Murfreesboro Central Magnet School Tigers (19-11) with tip scheduled for 6 p.m.
Canelius Turner and Keshun Gentry also had incredible fourth quarter performances for Marshall County with Turner scoring nine out of his 17 points in the period.
Turner had a pair of 3-pointers in the final stanza and came up with the defensive play of the game when he swiped the ball and scored with 40 seconds left in the contest to put Marshall County in front 74-73.
And Gentry answered the call in a big way, draining a pair of 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter after the Panthers had built a seven-point lead with five minutes left in the game.
Lewis County controlled the game from the outset, running off to a 7-0 lead and the Panthers held firm to earn a 16-10 lead after the first quarter.
Every time the Tigers tried to come back the Panthers pounced again behind a 27-point effort from Bryson Hinson, including four 3-pointers.
Cameron Cotham also had a big game for Lewis County with 21 points while Peyton Crowell and Mikey Ortiz were also in double figures with 12 and 11 points respectively.
The Tigers eventually came back to take a second quarter lead, but the Panthers staved them off and regained a 38-32 halftime lead.
The third period was much of the same as the two teams traded counter punch after counter punch and Lewis County managed to hold on and took a 53-49 lead to the fourth quarter.
With the Tigers trailing 58-51, Turner lit the first fuse when he drained a 3-pointer and after the Panthers matched the trey with a Hinson 3-pointer, Gentry did his magic from downtown with two long bombs.
One more trey by Turner with three minutes to go in the game pulled the Tigers to within two points at 65-63, but the Panthers increased their edge to four points twice inside of two minutes to play.
Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 1:31 left in the game to make it a one-point game, but Cothran came up with a huge low post basket to stretch the lead to three points at 73-70.
Johnson, Marshall County’s all-time leading scorer and David Lipscomb University signee, drove to the hoop for a score and was fouled, having a chance to tie the game, but the free throw was off.
Both teams proceeded to miss the front end of one-and-one tries from the free throw line before Turner stole the ball and raced in for the go-ahead goal.
“That felt good with the way we were playing, we had to play close and we had to play up and fast the whole game, it was tough,” Turner said. “It was a play where we were supposed to run and jump and we weren’t doing it right and coach (Lavon) King kept telling us to keep doing it and I finally got one.”
After a Lewis County missed shot at the other end, Turner hit one of two from the charity stripe to give the Tigers a 75-73 lead with 25.4 seconds remaining in the game.
“That was real clutch of him, he stepped up in a big time moment,” Johnson said. “He knocked that free throw down and got that steal.”
The Panthers just would not go away as Crowell scored to tie the game before Johnson took the rock and sped down court, twisting and weaving his way through traffic and down the lane where he soared and flicked the ball in the basket and was fouled with 3.1 ticks left on the clock.
“I knew I wanted the ball in my hand and I wasn’t going to pass it up in that situation because I knew that’s what I always wanted,” Johnson said. “I just took it in there and I made it.”
Johnson calmly buried the free throw and the Panthers fumbled the ball away without getting off a shot as time ran out in their season.
It will be the fourth meeting this season for Marshall County (16-13) and their namesakes from Murfreesboro, who pulled off a 58-44 upset win at number-seven ranked Fairview (28-3) Monday night.
The two teams split 10-point regular season road wins before Marshall County took the third contest via a 68-59 win in the District 12-AA Tournament semifinals.
The winners of tonight’s games play for the region and are guaranteed a state sectional game.
“We are still alive, we just have to take it one game at a time,” Johnson said. “Winning would be big for us, especially my last season and I would love to make it to sub-state and make a push for state.”
Lewis County 16 22 15 22-75
Marshall County 10 22 17 29-78
Lewis County (75): Bryson Hinson 27, Cameron Cotham 21, Peyton Crowell 12, Mikey Ortiz 11, A.T. Brewer 2, Cade Banks 2.
3-Point Goals (9): Hinson 4, Ortiz 3, Crowell 2.
Free Throws (12-for-16): Cotham 5-for-7, Hinson 5-for-6, Brewer 2-for-2, Ortiz 0-for-1.
Marshall County (78): KJ Johnson 41, Canelius Turner 17, Keshun Gentry 10, Silas Hurt 3, Bryson Hughes 3, Dagon Stacey 2, Malik Thomison 2.
3-Point Goals (10): Johnson 4, Turner 3, Gentry 2, Hughes.
Free Throws (14-for-21): Johnson 9-for-13, Turner 2-for-4, Gentry 2-for-2, Hurt 1-for-1, Andrew Gold 0-for-1.
Halftime Score: Lewis County 38, Marshall County 32.