Windsor erased a huge second-half deficit but ran out of steam late and fell short of playing for a second straight state championship with a 78-65 loss to First Presbyterian Christian School in the GISA Class AA semifinals Thursday at Mercer.
The Knights (26-3) dug a 12-1 hole to start the game, turning the ball over seven times. The Highlanders' lead ballooned to as many 20 points in the second quarter, before they ultimately settled for a 16-point advantage at the half.
Windsor responded after the break.
The Knights came out flying in the third quarter, keyed by a frantic defensive effort that sparked a 13-0 run. They tied the game on a bucket by senior Marquise Jackson with 3:17 remaining the quarter and took their first lead of the contest just seconds later on a bucket by junior Josh Brooks.
Despite having all of the momentum entering the fourth quarter with a partisan crowd behind it, Windsor diverted to shooting from the outside like it had early in the contest, and First Presbyterian Christian (22-5) quickly found itself up by double-digits once again.
The Knights never came within eight points during the game's final four minutes.
THREE WHO MATTERED
George Mitchell: First Presbyterian Christian's athletic guard was the quickest player on the floor and poured in a game-high 33 points in the win. He didn't find much success from the perimeter but beat Windsor time and again in transition.
Jackson: Mitchell's opposite number for Windsor scored 25 points in the loss before fouling out with just more than a minute to play.
John Killough: First Presbyterian Christian's center wreaked havoc on the defensive end in the first half as Windsor struggled to find a way to finish over him or around him. He also scored nine points in the second half.
THEY SAID IT
Windsor head coach Michael Johnson on his team's first-half performance: "We got in a hole. We didn't get back on defense, and we couldn't stop their transition game. We had some really big turnovers. We had guys gambling a little too much trying to get steals and not getting back on defense in transition."
Johnson on the difference between Thursday's game and Windsor's 63-46 win over First Presbyterian in December: "I think we played (First Presbyterian Christian) when they were hurt. They may have picked up another player during the break, but the difference between now and then is that it was early for both of us."
Johnson on his halftime message to his team: "I told them that they hadn't shown up yet. It was the worst half of basketball we'd played all season long. They were motivated just by knowing that they hadn't played to their potential. They were angry and mad at themselves."
ALSO THURSDAY NIGHT
John Milledge surged from behind in the fourth quarter and knocked off defending state champion Deerfield-Windsor 59-53 in overtime in the GISA boys Class AAA semifinals. Senior Andrew Prestwood scored a game-high 24 points, including four clutch free throws in overtime to secure the victory.