Windsor head coach Michael Johnson proudly proclaims his team is “passionate” about playing defense.
He would get no argument from Solid Rock after the Knights’ smothering man-to-man dismantled the Lions 92-64 on Thursday night in the first round of the GISA Class AA playoffs.
“We’ve preached defense, defense all year, and they play it with a passion,” said Johnson, whose team forced 28 turnovers on the way to eliminating the Lions. “Play defense, and everything else follows.”
The Knights (25-4) are pretty good with the ball in their hands, too. All five of their starters reached double figures, and five of the reserves scored.
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And they do it inside and outside. Windsor collected 17 baskets in and around the lane while five different players combined for nine 3-pointers.
The Knights are just as likely to convert a steal off a double-team into a 3-pointer as a layup.
“We work as hard as we can on defense because we know if we do, the offense is going to come,” said senior Antonio McKinney, who topped the Knights with 21 points. “We have a lot of scorers. Anybody out there can score a lot for us.”
Sophomores Landry Rustin and Marquise Jackson followed McKinney with 16 points each. Senior wing player Dylan Bass had 11, including a trio of 3-pointers, while senior post Austin Thomas had 10.
McKinney and Thomas sat much of the first half after picking up two fouls in the first quarter. Although it took away the bulk of the team’s size (6-foot-3, 6-5, respectively), it didn’t impact the Knights’ effort.
“These guys play together,” Johnson said. “They’re unselfish, and they know each other. I’m really proud of the way they blend together.”
Added McKinney, who’s closing in on 1,000 points for his career, “A lot of us have been together for a while, some of us since 10th grade. We have a lot of confidence in each other.”
Windsor never trailed as the Lions were never able to score on more than two possessions in a row. The Knights forced 10 turnovers in the first quarter, which helped result in a 24-13 cushion.
The Lions finally steadied to cut into their deficit in the second quarter behind the scoring of Chaz Wright, who finished with 25 points, and Darius Baskin, who added 19. When Baskin converted a three-point play with 2:31 left, the Windsor lead was only 33-31.
But Rustin nailed consecutive 3s during the next 40 seconds to start a 12-1 spurt that included three straight steals to close the surge for a 45-32 edge at intermission.
“We kind of lost our focus there,” Johnson said of the Lions’ rally. “We saw them put the ball in the hole, and we weren’t. We got the refocused and picked it back up and got some easy baskets.
“We were OK after that.”
After Wright scored off the opening possession of the second half, the Knights ran off nine straight for a 54-34 cushion they steadily padded. The lead was its largest at 83-46 with 5:08 left in the game after another 9-0 spurt.
“We feel good about being this far,” said McKinney, who helped the Knights earn the program’s first boys region championship since 1981. “But we’re not done.”