With eight seniors on the roster, C.A. Johnson had more than enough motivation to power through Wednesday night’s Class 2A third-round match against Southside Christian.
The Hornets won, 67-51, to advance to the semifinals.
“To be able to play the third round at home, that has never been done in the history of C.A. Johnson. So, with the ambition and the work ethic that we put in this last year, there was no choice other than for us to win,” said all-state forward senior Peter Goodman, who led the game with 24 points and six assists.
“Coming into this season, we said we were going to play every game like it was our last, because it is our last,” he said.
“They don’t want to lose,” Hornets coach Daryl Jarvis said. “They are not ready for this season to end yet.”
The Hornets never trailed in the game and led by nine at halftime.
Sabres junior Autsin Kupec’s basket made it a three-point game two minutes into the second half, and the Sabres stayed on C.A. Johnson’s heels for a while, matching the Hornets bucket for bucket.
“The key was to keep applying pressure,” Jarvis said. “We knew we could never let up off the gas peddle whether it was two points, five points,
“We knew that if we just applied pressure – we’re deep, and eventually we would wear them down, and I think in the end they just didn’t have enough in the tank,” Jarvis said.
The Hornets recovered their momentum, 48-39, by the end of the period and looked to run away with it. In 2:15 of fourth-quarter play, Johnson used unselfish play to push its lead to 15 points over a scoreless Southside Christian squad. The Sabres could not find a way to limit Johnson’s offense and work their way back.
Early on, Southside Christian’s shots were off, due in part to the Hornets’ assertive defensive pressure, which left no shot uncontested. The Hornets knew Southside was a strong outside shooting team. The aim was to force the Sabres to drive the lane rather than relying on the jump shot.
Johnson held the Sabres scoreless for the first four minutes, as rebounding from William Tobe and Goodman ensured the Sabres got no second chances. At 3:35 in the first, Hunter Bullock fought his way into the low post and put up a layup on two Hornets defenders. Connor Clark added three points on the next possession and breathed life into Southside Christian.
C.A. Johnson got key 3-point buckets from Breondre Johnson and Goodman to extend its lead then, and had a six-point lead with 1.9 seconds left in the period. But a Johnson foul at the buzzer sent Clark to the free throw line, where he sank two of three shots to make it a four-point game.
With 4:35 to go before the half, Bullock drained a 3-pointer that cut the Hornets’ lead to 18-15. The Hornets responded with back-to-back buckets, and the Sabres added another 3-ball and a layup to shave the lead to two.
With another 3-pointer and a Mike Knox assist to Goodman for a layup, C.A. Johnson opened up the game and took a 31-22 lead into the break.
Goodman had 12 points in the first half, while Sabres Bullock and Clark combined for 15. Bullock finished with 15, Clark with 11.
The Hornets also got double-digit scoring from Knox (11 points), and William Tobe posted 15 points and seven rebounds.
C.A. Johnson will play St. Joseph’s in the Upper State championship at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville on Saturday.
C: Mike Knox 11, Nelson 8, William Tobe 15, Peter Goodan 24, Johnson 5, Riley 3, Butler 1. S: Henry Bullock 15, Connor Clark 11, Kupec 6, Dean 6, Walker 5, Stokes 8.