If anyone had asked Windsor boys basketball head coach Michael Johnson at the start of the season if he thought his team had a chance to return to the GISA Class AA semifinals, he admits the answer would have been "probably not."
But the Knights, who won the state championship a year ago, have overcome the loss of six seniors from last year to win 21 straight games and head into Thursday's game against First Presbyterian Christian. The Knights have a 26-2 record going into the game at Hawkins Arena. The faces the winner of the Furtah Prep and Memorial Day game for the championship Saturday.
Johnson is quick to sing the praises his entire team, but said the Knights are led by Marquise Jackson, Landry Rustin and Will Jones.
"Marquise is a freakish athlete, and to get a full understanding of what he does on the court, you just have to see him," said Johnson of his leading scorer at just less than 20 points per game. "I mean, this guy is about 5-foot-10, and he usually dunks at least once a game and sometimes more. He plays with an attitude and goes just as hard on the defensive end as he does on offense. If we get into a close game, he wants the ball in his hands."
Rustin missed the first part of the season last year with a broken thumb, while Johnson said the coaches have to actually push Jones to shoot more.
"We work hard to get (Rustin) looks around the rim because he doesn't miss," Johnson said. "We also like to run alley-oops to (Jones). Seriously, our big three is very difficult to handle."
The Knights have not played First Presbyterian Christian this year, but Johnson has seen video.
"They are like a mirror image of us," Johnson said. "They are very athletic, and they play fast, and I think it will come down to who can get more stops on the defensive end."
Johnson does worry that his team has not been tested since the calendar turned to 2016. The Knights have breezed through two rounds of the state tournament, winning by 29 and 22 points.
"Crisp Academy played us very tough for a half in our last game, but we were able to pull away in the second half, so it is a bit of a worry how we will react in a close game," Johnson said. "Even though I think we are peaking right now, I still see us being able to climb a little bit more. One thing that I am sure of is the fans do not want to miss the 4 o'clock game on Thursday at Mercer."