The Knott Central Patriots overcame a 10-point second half deficit to defeat the Cordia Lions Saturday, as the Lions dropped to 8-4 on the season.
Cordia took the lead early as guard A.J. Tagaloa scored the first of his 16 first half points with a jumper, while Knott Central would not hit a shot until the 6:27 mark when an Evan Hall score tied the game at 2-2.
The Patriots later took the lead, and extended it to four points off a three from sophomore Simon Christon at the 1:15 mark. But Cordia would quickly even the score, as Tagaloa first hit two free throws and then scored a quick layup with 35 seconds left in the quarter, knotting the game at 10 before Knott Central’s Camron Justice hit a contested three at the buzzer, giving the Patriots the 13-10 lead going into the second quarter.
Cordia wasted little time getting on the board in the second period, and quickly took the lead off a score by freshman guard A.J. Chisolm, which was followed by a steal and score by senior Dondre Warren, pushing Cordia ahead 14-13.
Knott Central’s Chance Cornett hit a jumper to push the Patriots ahead 15-14, but was quickly followed by a three from Tagaloa, giving the Lions the 17-15 lead.
Cordia continued to push the tempo, and a third three from Tagaloa at the 3:32 mark pushed the score to 27-22. Cordia eventually went up by nine off of a layup by Chisolm, but a Knott Central score would cut the lead to seven going into the half.
Cordia extended their lead to 10 early in the third quarter as Austin Combs nailed a three to open the second half, but Knott Central would mount a comeback and eventually retake the lead for good at the 1:10 mark, when an Evan Hall score put the Patriots ahead 45-44.
It was the play immediately following Combs’ three-pointer that the game began to turn in the Patriots’ favor, said Cordia Coach Rodrick Rhodes. That was when Justice pulled up for a shot from behind the arc and drew a foul, later hitting three straight foul shots.
“We went up by 10 and I felt the momentum was our way,” Rhodes said. “Then we came down right after we hit the three, we fouled Justice on the three-point shot, and that’s when it seemed like the wheels came off a little bit.”
The Patriots continued to put points on the board, while Cordia went ice cold on offense. The Lions would not make a single field goal in the fourth quarter, as their only scores came from free throws made by Tagaloa and Warren.
Knott Central went on to win the game by a final of 59-48, improving to 12-2 on the season. Hall lead the Patriots in scoring with 18, while Justice added 17 on the night.
“We just kind of got away from what we did in the first half,” Rhodes added after the game. “We wanted to really make them work defensively, we wanted to take time off the clock.”
Cordia will hit the road for their next two games, traveling to Wolfe County on Monday, and then to Buckhorn on Jan. 10. And while Cordia could potentially play Knott Central two more times this season in the upcoming All A tournament and in the postseason district tournament, Rhodes said his team will take the remaining schedule one game at a time.
“This game is behind us, and now we’ve got to go on the road and see what we’re made of,” he said. “I think I’ve got a bunch of tough kids in my locker room, and we’ll be put to the test against Wolfe and Buckhorn.”
Cordia stats: A.J. Tagaloa: 20 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists; Dondre Warren: 14 points, 12 rebounds, 1 block; A.J. Chisholm: 11 points, 2 rebounds, 3 steals; Austin Combs: 3 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist; Zack Owens: 1 rebound, 2 steals, 3 assists