It was only two minutes into the second quarter, but it looked like The Kings Academy was on its way to a dominating road win at Oneida on Friday. The Lions had scored 15 consecutive points, led 20-4, and were in complete command of the game.
But then the script flipped. With Oneida attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line with regularity, the Indians surged from behind to defeat the Lions 60-57 in front of a rowdy homecoming crowd that gave OHS Gymnasium an atmosphere more like a postseason game than a non-district matchup.
Oneida rallied from the 16-point deficit to trail by just two at the half, 23-21, then battled back from 10 points down in the second half to take the lead and hold on for the win.
JD Thomas finished with 18 points, while Logan Marlow and Dalton Yancey each had 13 points, as the Indians overcame an inspired performance by TKA’s Ransford Ntow, who scored 19 second half points en route to a game-high 20 points.
The foul count was key for the Indians. Playing aggressively on offense, Oneida earned 25 foul calls against The Kings Academy, while only being called for 15 of their own. The Lions’ best player, Ahsharri Haynesworth, got into foul trouble in the first half, and wound up fouling out of the game early in the fourth quarter.
As a result of the foul count, Oneida got to the free throw line 29 times, hitting 20 of them, for 69 percent.
By contrast, The Kings Academy got to the line just 14 times. And when the Lions did get to the line, they shot terribly, hitting only 43 percent of their tries.
That 14-point difference at the line was enough to help the Indians overcome a deficit of four made field goals and 19 turnovers.
While the Indians only had 19 made field goals, they shot the ball well, finishing the game with a shooting percentage of 58 percent.
Haynesworth — the son of former University of Tennessee standout and Tennessee Titan Albert Haynesworth — had 10 points early, and hit back-to-back 3-point shots to help the Lions blow the game open early. After a bucket by Thomas to cut the Lions’ lead to 5-4, TKA went on a 15-0 run to build a 16-point lead.
After the two teams traded buckets, Bryson Buttram scored to spark a 15-2 run by the Indians to close the half. A key moment came when Haynesworth picked up his third foul and was forced to the bench.
Oneida cut the lead to a point to start the third quarter, on a free throw by Zak Kazee, but then saw The Kings Academy go on an 11-2 run to build the lead back to double digits, 34-24.
Again, though, the Indians would claw their way back.
Oneida scored eight straight points. By the time Thomas knocked down a 3-point shot to give the Indians their first lead of the night, at 38-36, Oneida was on a 14-2 run. The run was 19-2 by the time the Lions finally scored again to end the third quarter.
The Kings Academy came back from a six-point deficit in the fourth quarter to retake the lead with under two minutes remaining, when Veljko Kovac knocked down a 3-point shot. But the Indians answered at a likely place — the free throw line. Two made tosses by Thomas put the Indians on top for good after Haynesworth was called for a technical foul that fouled him out of the game.
After Kovac cut the lead to 58-57 with 11 seconds remaining, Thomas knocked down two more free throws to secure the win for the Indians.
ONEIDA (60): Thomas 18, Yancey 13, Marlow 13, Kazee 9, Branstetter 4, Buttram 2, Botts 1.
THE KINGS ACADEMY (57): Ntow 20, Coleman 14, Haynesworth 10, Kovac 7, Russell 6.