The gym was full, and the doors were locked long before tipoff on senior night.
But the rims were anything but friendly to homestanding Perry, and Upson-Lee took advantage of a physical game and those shooting woes for a 48-25 win Friday night to finish a perfect regular season as champion of GHSA Region 2-4A.
The Knights (25-0) led 22-21 after Keyiovione Whitlock’s layup off a nice pass from Damion Bagley inside the first minute of the third quarter. But the Panthers could manage only four more points in the quarter, and the Knights countered with runs of 6-0 and 8-0 to take control, and a 38-25 lead after three.
Perry’s problems on offense, exacerbated by a size disadvantage, continued, and the Panthers were held scoreless in the fourth quarter.
Three who mattered
Travon Walker: Upson-Lee’s 6-foot-5 sophomore, who is getting increasing attention from SEC football programs, ate up space, affected shots and finished with 17 rebounds to go with 14 points and about a half-dozen blocks.
Zyrice Scott: The sophomore guard was all over the court on both ends, and was key in the Knights breaking the Perry press and getting some transition buckets. He finished with eight points and a few steals.
Bagley: The senior had six of his team’s 14 second-quarter points and sparked a comeback from 14-5 deficit to one point late, but he and his teammates had scoring woes the rest of the way.
Perry had battled back and was down 24-21 early in the third quarter. Then Upson-Lee’s Kentrez Taylor bumped knees with a Perry player on a loose-ball chase and fell to the floor about 10 feet from the sideline and 8 feet from halfcourt, remaining there as play continued. Then Whitlock launched a 3-pointer in conjunction with a whistle to stop play. The shot swished through, seemingly tying the game, but it was waved off. The Panthers then went scoreless on four straight trips and the Knights got points on seven of their next nine possessions.
Bruising evening: The taller and thicker Knights enjoyed a night where banging around, including from behind on rebounds, was part of the game. Upson-Lee, with a clear size advantage inside, was whistled for only seven fouls to 15 for the Panthers. Eventually, the smaller Panthers — who struggled against the Knights’ zone — were less inclined to go inside to try and draw fouls, as would normally be the case with an undersized team. Jhi’Marre Brown and Whitlock each finished with four fouls.
Also Friday) night
Sophomore Asia Harrell made the older players happy on senior night with 30 points as Perry rolled to an 82-42 win. The Panthers score more than half of their points in the first and fourth quarters, and had balance, with three other players in double figures: KK Smith with 17, LaShandria Mallard with 14 and Tatyona Owens with 10. Zakhia King and Kyjha Kendall had 10 each for the Knights.
They said it
Perry head coach Brett Hardy on shooting woes: “We didn’t shoot the ball well all night. They had something to do with that, of course. In the second half, we were just stagnant and didn’t move, didn’t move the ball well. We couldn’t get it in the basket, so we couldn’t press.
Upson-Lee’s Fagan on Perry’s scoreless fourth quarter: “I don’t think we ever did that. We’ve held somebody to like four points. That’s good. Zero points in the fourth quarter? Shut ‘em out. That’s good.”
Hardy on a key play: “The momentum of the game changed when that kid went down at halfcourt. We shot the 3 and made it, they blew it dead. I hate that anybody gets hurt.”
Upson-Lee head coach Darrell Lockhart on the biggest positive: “Our best player (Fagan) wasn’t on (Friday), and he got in foul trouble early, I like the way the other guys stepped up and did a really good job.”
Hardy on problems with the zone Upson-Lee hardly used in the first meeting: “We did not attack it very well. I thought we were timid, and really not aggressive against it. We caught it in the zone, we just held on to it. We took it at the big kid, but when you’re 5-11 and he’s an SEC defensive lineman, you gotta pass it to somebody.”
Lockhart on a better job against Perry’s press: “We worked on it the day after (the first meeting). We made mistakes, tried to dribble with our head down, those kinds of mistakes. We didn’t lose any balls (Friday) on the trap, so we did a pretty good job.”
The region tournament schedule will be set up Sunday, and there will be a coin flip involved. The tournament starts Monday at Mary Persons.