Led by the hot shooting of Kendle Pitts, Gov. Thomas Johnson High School's boys basketball team earned its fifth win of the season, defeating the Walkersville Lions 56-46 in Friday night's physical, hard-fought game featuring tough defense and plenty of points off turnovers.
Pitts finished with a game-high 25 points, including 17 in the second half. Using a wide array of moves, the senior guard was able to score both driving to the rim and stepping back to shoot beyond the arc.
“He was in a rhythm tonight,” Patriots coach John Manley said. “Kendle's one of my senior leaders and he's gotten better every game.”
Walkersville (2-8) threatened to cut the deficit to single digits several times in the fourth quarter, but Pitts continuously hit big shots down the stretch to prevent the Lions from gaining momentum. It was his fourth 3-pointer of the half with just over 3 minutes remaining that officially took away any shot the Lions had of making a late comeback.
“Sometimes this season we've had problems letting up after halftime,” Pitts said. “We've been working hard on that and it was our team's goal to come out of the locker room on fire.”
Pitts credited some of his shooting success to Thomas Johnson's new “Shootout” training device (an additional net that's placed above the rim) that was put into the gym a few weeks ago.
“The 'Shootout' has definitely been working for us,” Pitts said. “It's helped me shoot higher and it's definitely improved my arc.”
The Patriot (5-5) defense was aggressive all night, never letting Walkersville get any clean or easy shots down low. Walkersville's big men rarely touched the ball and the guards struggled to drive past the perimeter.
“We made adjustments on our rotations at halftime,” Manley said. “We did a better job of getting out to the shooters in the second half. We've stressed good defense most of the year and now we're trying to get more movement on the offensive side of the ball. We're hoping to be clicking on all cylinders by February.”
After getting off to a slow start, Walkersville picked up the intensity in the fourth quarter. The Lions' 24 fourth-quarter points were more than its previous three quarters combined (22). Walkersville's ball movement improved, opening up solid looks from the 3-point line, but it could not get the stops on the defensive end.
“We started doing a better job attacking the zone and being stronger with the basketball in the last quarter,” Walkersville coach Ryan Burkey said. “I felt we were just careless with the ball in the second and third quarters. That fourth quarter is the way we believe we're capable of playing.”
Jacolby Lott was Thomas Johnson's second leading scorer, finishing with nine points. The Lions were led by Zach Hommey and Chase Martin, each scoring 12 points.
Thomas Johnson 56, Walkersville 46
Thomas Johnson 17 11 11 17— 56
Walkersville 11 6 5 24— 46
Thomas Johnson (5-5): Kendle Pitts 25, Jacolby Lott 9, Eric Blankson 6, Temoi Roper 6, Travis Barbe 6, David Larson 3, Brennan Waddy 1.
Walkersville (2-8): Zach Hommey 12, Chase Martin 12, Travis Rhodes 5, Chad Yard 5, Demitrious Royster 4, Michael Tomlin 4, Paulin Atemekeng 2, Jake Polce 2.