If converting late free throws isn’t enough pressure, try making them when the whole crowd is chanting “MVP.”
Karr High School’s Kendell Johnson made eight consecutive free throws in the last 90 seconds to hold off any late McDonogh 35 sure in a 52-45 win in front of a standing-room only crowd at Karr.
Johnson finished with 15 points and was a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line.
“My coach told me that the game was on me and that I had to come through,” Johnson said. “The crowd was rooting for me, so I had to respond. Shooting is my thing, so I did what I normally do and I made it easily.”
Karr coach Tauras Howard said knew his team was hungry all week for the big showdown with the Roneagles, but he was curious to how they would respond if they got behind.
“We came out really flat in the first quarter, and that’s something you can’t do against a team like No. 35,” Howard said. “We knew we had an advantage at home, but we needed to play well too. Once we settled down, I think the team started to relax and play our style of ball.”
The Cougars led the final three quarters thanks to the clutch play of Raekwon Bush.
Bush scored 11 points, but his defensive work on the Roneagles center Bryson Gresham was even more important. Gresham also scored 11 points, but was limited to only three in the second half.
“We had to deny their guy the ball, and we asked Raekwon to take control,” Howard said. “He is a great player, but we needed to make someone else beat us.”
The Roneagles missed 10 free throws in the second half and committed seven turnovers. The inability to get the ball to their big man ultimately halted their offensive production. Junior De’ Jon Jarreau had a relatively quiet night by his standards, and only scored nine points.
“We started off really fast, but I think our kids let the moment consume them,” Roneagles coach Kevin Sanders said. “We got behind and missing free throws didn’t help our cause.”
“We wanted to get the ball into Bryson more, but we never could get settled in our half-court offense. He shoots a high percentage once he touches the ball. We just have to a better job of executing to help him out.”
Neither team was able to establish much of a rhythm in the third quarter. Karr led 32-30 after not scoring in the first three minutes of the second half.
The first half saw a heavy defensive effort on the part of both teams. The Roneagles started hot and led by as many as 10 during the second quarter. Gresham and Jarreau combined for 13 of the Roneagles’ 23 points.
Despite the slow start, Senior guard Darren Hulbert scored two consecutive baskets to help spark a Cougar 11- point swing. Bush finally got going and poured in 7 second quarter points. The home team Cougars finished on a 12- 6 run and headed into halftime up 24-23.
Hulbert finished with seven points and six assists.
Joseph Foucha finished with nine points and teammate Corey Davis added another 10 for the Roneagles.