The name of the gym and the 59-game winning streak?
Salem wasn’t fazed.
The Seminoles brought a 21-6 record and a slew of perimeter-oriented big players to The Castle, and some confidence.
They had the overflow crowd buzzing, a little nervously, with a lead after a quarter.
“This is a great program,” Salem head coach Jarrod Davis said. “I think we’re built to withstand (opposition). We could not let the atmosphere get to us.”
And for a long time, it didn’t. But it did.
The eventual Upson-Lee spurt was still a few minutes away, but it finally appeared, and the Knights took a measure of control and held off a late rally for a 52-44 win over Salem in a GHSA Class AAAA second-round game.
“That’s what I expected,” Upson-Lee head coach Darrell Lockhart said of the Seminoles’ approach.
The Knights won their 60th straight and improved to 28-0, behind 17 points from Tye Fagan and 12 from Travon Walker.
“They made runs, and we let the atmosphere get to us,” Davis said.
Walker’s bucket low with 5:57 left in the second quarter gave the Knights their second and final lead, starting a 10-0 run en route to a 13-3 quarter and 22-13 halftime lead.
The crowd stayed into a game that had a much more frenetic pace than the scoreboard showed, thanks to both teams veering out of their game plan at times.
Upson-Lee opened the third quarter with a 9-3 run, Fagan finally getting going with a 3 on the Knights’ first possession and a steal and stuff a little more than a minute later as the lead grew to 31-16.
“We just didn’t match their intensity coming out in the second half,” Davis said. “We’ve had a problem sometimes coming out the second half with a lull.”
The overall taller and thicker Seminoles started getting their wind back and hitting some 3-pointers to keep the Knights from running away. They made four in the quarter and trailed by 12 after three.
The Knights hit a dry spell during which the Seminoles chipped away – there was a Montez Swann 3 in there – and got to within seven at the 3:15 mark.
Upson-Lee got chilly at the line, going only 3-for-10 from that point on. The Seminoles couldn’t take much advantage, getting it down to seven with 28.7 seconds left.
Swann led the Seminoles with 18 points while Tabais Long added 11.
It wasn’t a great night shooting for the Knights.
“I don’t know if I didn’t like anything, other than our shots not falling,” Lockhart said. “I’d like for us to shoot better. But I think we will. We had a lot roll out on us.”
Upson-Lee now takes on another top seed, LaFayette from Region 6, and must travel.
The Knights again didn’t shoot particularly well, but Lockhart was very happy that his team had to take on a physical opponent that kept the Knights on their toes.
“I think we got challenged,” he said. “I liked this game better than the one we won by (31). It was a challenge. … It was a physical ballgame.
“I’d like to maintain this kind of intensity.”