Posted: Thursday, February 14th 2013 at 11:59pm
8-AAAA tournament: Cagle shoots Johnson into 8-AAAA finals; Eastside awaits
By Jeff Hart Staff
Johnson's Montrell McKenzie lets out a yell after a slamming home a dunk during Thursday's Region 8-AAAA tournament in Oakwood.
OAKWOOD -- When the Johnson boys offense is clicking, its a thing of beauty to watch.
Although Stephens County may describe it more of a nightmare after watching Ty Cockfield, Carter Cagle, and Montrell McKenzie execute an all-out blitzkreig over the final three quarters to propel the Knights to an impressive 92-62 win in the semifinals of the Region 8-AAAA tournament Thursday night.
Leading just 22-17 early in the second quarter, Cockfield and Carter sparked a 14-2 run, fueled by four consecutive -- and each one longer than the one before -- 3-pointers by Cagle. Cockfield would finish with seven first half assists, Cagle poured in 17 points, and McKenzie had nine points and four rebounds to dominate the inside for a 47-34 halftime lead for Johnson.
The Indians never recovered.
“How about Carter,” Johnson coach Jeff Steele said. “He didn’t score a point on Tuesday and then he catches fire tonight. He’s a pure shooter and it’s like that sometimes.”
Cagle would finish with a game-high 23 points, including a career-high seven 3-pointers. The junior said he was definitely in the zone.
“I was feeling it. The guys just kept finding me and I just kept shooting. The rim looked huge all night,” he said.
Steele said watching how his team handled the decisive run made him smile.
“They saw Carter had the hot hand and they just kept feeding him the ball. They are an unselfish group and that’s what I love about this team,” he said.
Johnson now will take on Eastside, a 62-43 winner over Madison County in the other semifinal, at 8:30 p.m. Friday night at Johnson for the region title. The win assured the Knights (23-4) of at least one home game in the upcoming Class AAAA state tournament.
Steele said they want to finish what they started and win their first region title since taking the 7-AAA crown in 2005 behind standout Marqise Wright.
“We want to win the region title. That would mean two home games and we love playing at home,” he said. “You want to be peaking right now and I think we are.”
The Knights took a tougher-than-it-appeared 90-70 win over Eastside last week and Steele said he expects a war.
“I’m sure Eastside is hungry for a little payback,” he said. “They are a very good team. It will take another great game from us to win. But I think the guys will be up for the challenge.”
Stephens County would pull within 53-43 midway through the third quarter but Johnson would muster up another assault on the Indians’ defense finishing the quarter on a 17-6 spurt for a commanding 70-49 lead. The Knights would lead by as many as 32 points in the fourth quarter.
Cagle said the current squad of Knights is ready to make some history.
“We have a guy like Ty that can drive the ball and Montrell can dominate inside and if I can hit shots, I don’t think we can be stopped on offense,” he said. “Plus, guys like James (Hodges) and Rod (English) can score. I feel like we have a team that can win the state title. But we have to go out and prove it. That’s what we want to do.”
Stephens County never led but the game was tied once at 2-2 and the Indians pulled within 11-10 on a 3-pointer by Fred Smith. Johnson would answer with a 9-1 run to take control of the game. Stephens County never got closer than five the rest of the game.
Smith and Cody Helgeland each had 14 points to pace Stephens County.
MADISON COUNTY 43
Eastside moved into the Region 8-AAAA championship game after whipping Madison County Thursday night in the semifinals at the Johnson gym.
Madison County, which came in with just seven wins after upsetting No. 2 seed Lanier Tuesday in the first round, played the Eagles tough for the first four minutes. The game was tied 6-6 before Eastside used an 11-2 run to close out the first quarter for a 17-8 lead.
Eastside (17-8) would take a 24-15 lead into halftime and blew the game open in the third quarter. The Eagles used a 10-2 run midway through the period and would build a 55-31 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Madison County got as close as 55-41 after a 10-0 run midway through the fourth but could get no closer.
Quindarius Russell paced the Eagles with 17 points. Treyvon Freeman had 14 points and Anthony Henderson had 10 for Eastside.
Madison County (7-19) was led Malik Freeman with 14 points.
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