Boys basketball team starts 2-4, relies on team chemistry

Knights+guard+senior+Autrey+Barnes+sets+to+shoot+a+free+throw+during+a+home+game+against+the+North+Atlanta+Warriors+on+Nov.+16.+The+Knights+lost+58-55.

Sudev Dongol

Knights guard senior Autrey Barnes sets to shoot a free throw during a home game against the North Atlanta Warriors on Nov. 16. The Knights lost 58-55.

Cole Parker

After finishing last season No. 7 in Region 6-AAAAA with a 5-14 overall record and 2-10 region record, the boys basketball team is looking to improve.

“We have good depth, and I think we’re hungry after some of the disappointments of last year,” Knights head coach Patrick Johnson said.

Loosening Covid-19 restrictions afforded the Knights more time to prepare for the beginning of the season.

“Last season, as a result of Covid, we didn’t have a chance to have a preseason; we couldn’t start until official practice started,” Johnson said. “This year, we were able to go to summer camps, play in a fall league and have conditioning. So, I feel like we’re a lot farther along right now than we were last year.”

Changes in the team’s dynamics have allowed the Knights to operate as a unified squad with a renewed focus on wanting to play for each other.

“Last season, we had a lot more talent, but we had issues with chemistry, which caused us to lose a lot more games than we should have,” Knights center junior Will Hunter said. “The players that were causing the chemistry issues either transferred or graduated.”

Other players have also noticed that the team has become more tightly-knit.

“This team is more together than the one from last year,” Knights guard senior Autrey Barnes said.

Hunter hopes the team goes at least .500.

“We had a bad season last year, and we want to improve a lot,” Hunter said. “Our base goal is definitely to win as many games as we lose. Beyond that, obviously, we want to win a lot and make it to the state playoffs.”

Johnson has a similar set of goals for the team.

“Our biggest goal is to try to make the state playoffs,” Johnson said. “Obviously, we’d love to compete for a region championship. We want to win every game we step on the court for, but the biggest goal is to have an opportunity to keep playing into the postseason. That’s something no one on this team has done in the last three years, so that’s definitely a major goal.”

The Knights’ region offers some strong competition.

“We’ve got a good schedule,” Patrick said. “Within our region, we have a lot of talented teams; it’s really a pretty even region. Chapel Hill was probably the best team in the region last year, but New Manchester won it. Maynard Jackson is always a good rival. Lithia Springs is always good. North Springs is tough. It’s one of those regions where I feel like anybody can beat anybody on a given night.”

Johnson and Hunter both said Barnes is a key player. Last season, Barnes averaged 10.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.

“We have a pretty good group of seniors,” Johnson said. “Autrey Barnes is probably our biggest senior returner. He’s the guy who’s played a really big role for us for the last couple of years.”

On Nov. 9, the Knights scrimmaged the Carver Panthers at home, losing 47-43. On Nov. 12, the Knights traveled to Paideia where they lost 73-48 to the Pythons. Last season, the Knights defeated the Pythons 65-64 at home.

“[The Pythons] were a good team last year, but I knew they were going to be improved this year,” Johnson said. “We went into it thinking it was going to be a tough game, which it was. They were a much bigger team than we were. I don’t think we expected it to be as good an atmosphere as it was. Hopefully, that’s a game we can learn from.”

On Nov. 13, the Knights defeated the Starr’s Mill Panthers 66-46 in an away game.

“We played really well and shot the ball well,” Johnson said. “We had 20 assists, which we’d been struggling with a little bit. It was a good win anyways, but also it was a really good bounce back after a tough beat on Friday night [against the Pythons].”

On Nov. 16, the Knights hosted the North Atlanta Warriors, losing 58-55. The Knights placed No. 4 in the Rotary Honor Air Flight Invitational after defeating the McIntosh Chiefs 55-53 on Nov. 2o and losing to the Roswell Hornets 78-45 on Nov. 22 and Lovett Lions 80-73 on Nov. 23. The Knights’ next game is away against the Heritage Patriots on Nov. 30.

Moving forward, the Knights plan on becoming more physical due to their lack of height in comparison to other teams in Georgia.

“As we play more and more games, we’ll figure out sort of the level of physicality we’ll have to have against bigger teams,” Johnson said. “That’s what these early, non-region games are for, you know, learn who you are, learn what you need to get better at and prepare yourself for region play.”

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