Johns sits most of the second half, East Lansing keeps its poise and defeats Everett, 64-60
Lansing – East Lansing showed why it’s one of the state’s top teams on Friday.
Brandon Johns, the Trojans top player and one of the state’s best, was on the bench most of the second half after suffering a bloody nose. His teammates, in particular Caleb Hoekstra raised their level and East Lansing held off Lansing Everett, 64-60, in a Capital Area Conference Blue Division game.
Johns had 14 points and seven rebounds, and all 14 points came in the first half. Hoekstra was 5-of-8 from the 3-point range and had 17 points. He also had 10 rebounds.
East Lansing (13-0, 9-0), ranked No. 4 in Class A, led 33-21 at halftime and everything seemed to be going its way. But the game changed quickly to start the second half as Everett picked up the pace by switching to a three-quarters court trap.
The Trojans didn’t handle the pressure well at first as they committed three turnovers in the first four minutes and had seven team fouls.
Jamyrin Jackson keyed a 12-4 run by scoring five points and the Vikings cut the East Lansing lead to 37-33 with 4:18 left in the quarter.
“We had to try something,” Everett coach Desmond Ferguson said. “We needed to create turnovers.”
Hoekstra then made consecutive 3-pointers to give his team some breathing room. Soon after the air came out of the Trojans.
While going for a loose ball Johns, a 6-8 wing, collided with an Everett player and when play stopped with 2:12 left Johns had his hand to his face but it couldn’t stop the blood.
“Somebody head-butted me,” Johns said. “(The bloody nose) started at school today. No, it’s not normal.”
Johns returned with 44 seconds left in the quarter and seconds later he was struck in the face by the ball, which led to more bleeding and Johns came out of the game with 17 seconds left never to return with his team nursing a 44-43 lead.
Hoekstra stepped up again and made a 3-pointer to give the Trojans a 47-43 lead at the end of the quarter.
Nyreel Powell ended a 6-3 Everett run to open the fourth and the Vikings pulled to within 50-49.
B.J. Powell’s two free throws and a 16-footer by Hoekstra, his lone 2-point basket, increased East Lansing’s lead to 54-49 with 4:11 left.
The Trojans pushed the lead to 61-52 after a Powell free throw with 37 seconds left but Everett still had a run left. Jackson’s 3-pointer cut the deficit to 62-60 with six seconds left but Malik Jones two free throws four seconds later ended it.
Hoekstra scored 14 in the second half as he was finally able to get loose on the wing. He attempted just four shots in the first half and was 5-of-8 from the field in the second.
“They were doing the same thing defensively,” Hoekstra said. “B.J. just did a great job of finding me in the second half.
“We have a lot of talent on this team. We learned a lot tonight. If you want to make a long run in the tournament you have to have balance.”
Everett (7-6, 6-3) was 9-of-18 from the free throw line in the second half perhaps costing it a shot at an upset.
“That’s been our Achilles heel all season,” Ferguson said.