BLADENBORO – J. J. Faulkner pumped in 22 points Friday night as East Columbus withstood a furious West Bladen rally and escaped with a 63-59 boys’ basketball victory.
The Gators held a 56-50 lead when Knight freshman Landon Stanley drained a 3-point shot then stole the ball and banked in a runner to close the gap to 56-55. Faulkner answered with a lay-up, but Anthony Mitchell nailed a jumper from the key to bring West within 58-57 with 1:25 left in the game.
West Bladen missed a pair of free throws with 38 seconds remaining. Julius Rivera drove for a Gator basket, and Tahjir Melvin canned 2 free throws at the 13-second mark to pad the lead to 62-57.
Javonta Matthews led the Knight scoring with 11 points, and senior ShyRon Adams collected 10 points and 6 steals. Stanley finished with 10 points. Sophmore center Deonte Lacey racked up 9 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals, and sophmore Gary Parker scored 7 points. Josiah Brown dished out 3 assists, and Anthony Mitchell had 3 steals.
Photos by Kenneth Armstrong
“Kids did a good job,” said Knight Coach Travis Pait. “We changed what we are going to do 2 days ago. We went to a rotation trapping everywhere and giving us a chance to create turnovers and get easy baskets.”
Parker tossed in a pair of early baskets, Josh Lewis threw in a basket and a free throw, and Lacey, Matthews and Adams netted baskets as the Knight edged ahead 13-12 at the quarter break. Faulkner kept the Gators close with 7 points in the frame.
Stanley banked in a runner, and Keshaun Ballard sent a pass to Lacey for a lay-up. Stanley stole the ball and raced for another lay-up, and Matthews sank a free throw for a 20-14 Knight lead. However Ballard took a hard fall and was lost for the rest of the game with a head injury.
The Gators pulled to within 20-18, but lay-ups by Adams and Parker plus a Lacey free throw extended the Knight lead to 26-20. A 6-1 Gator run sliced the West Bladen lead to 27-26 at halftime.
A trio of Faulkner lay-ups keyed a 13-2 Gator run that opened up a 39-29 lead. Adams delivered an assist to Matthews for a lay-up then wound his way through traffic for a lay-up. Another Matthews lay-up came off of an assist from freshman Andre Moore.
Adams made a free throw, and Josiah Brown cashed in 2 free throws. Freshman Cornelius Esters bombed in a 3-ball from the left wing to whittle the lead to 42-41. A Parker free throw kept West within 43-42 at the quarter break.
Matthews scored again off of an Adams assist to keep the Knights within 45-44. Adams connected with Matthews again for a lay-up, Lacey banked in a 6-footer, and Josh Lewis put back a rebound to pull West Bladen within 54-50 at the 2:24 mark.
“Losing Keshaun really hurt us,” continued Coach Pait. “But our young guys really battled and scrapped. If they will do that 10 more times, we can’t ask for anything more.”
Rivera followed Faulkner with 14 points for the Gators, and Williams added 9.
The Knights will host West Columbus Tuesday night.
East Columbus 12 14 17 20 – 63
West Bladen 13 14 15 17 – 59
EC (64) –Jaquan Radford 3, Julius Rivera 14, Reggie Webb 6, Jamar Williams 9, Tahjir Melvin 6, J. J. Faulkner 22, J. T. Junious 3.
WB (59) – Cornelius Esters 3, Andre Moore, Anthony Mitchell 2, Josiah Brown 2, Landon Stanley 10, Keshaun Ballard, Josh Lewis 5, ShyRon Adams 10, Javonta Matthews 11, Deonte Lacey 9, Gary Parker 7.