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Johns returns after suffering injury in first half, scores 26 points in second half to lead East Lansing to comeback win over Holt

By: Jeff Dullack, January 13, 2017, 10:25 pm

East Lansing – With his team trailing Holt by as many as 16 points in the second half after losing star junior Brandon Johns early in the second quarter, East Lansing head coach Steve Finamore admitted he didn’t feel all that great about his teams chances to stay unbeaten.

Johns left the game because of blurred vision after being poked in the eye with about five minutes left in the second quarter and returned to the bench, but did not begin the second half on the court.

But with 3:54 left to play in the third quarter and Holt holding onto a comfortable 50-34 lead, Johns returned to the court and took over, scoring 26 points (10-11 shooting) in the second half alone to lead the Trojans to a 70-66 comeback win to remain unbeaten on the season.

“I told my coaches, I said ‘Guys, we’re going down tonight, right?’ because even our coaches said our energy wasn’t great, even in warmups,” Finamore said. “I think when I saw him (Johns) do what he wanted to do, we cut it down to seven or eight and I looked up and there was four minutes left, and I said we’ve got a chance. We just needed stops and I thought our guys off the bench did a really nice job on the defensive end.”

After Johns returned to the court with his team trailing 50-34, the Trojans would go on an 11-2 run, with nine points coming from the star junior to cut the deficit down to just seven, before a buzzer beater gave the Rams a 54-45 lead heading to the fourth quarter.

Johns said that despite his team trailing by nearly 20 points, he entered the game just looking to give his team a chance down the stretch.

“My mentality was that I had to get my team back in the game,” he said. “When you’re down like that, it kind of irks you, it makes you mad, so I just had to get my team back in the game.”

A basket from Columbia commit Jaron Faulds and five straight points from Malachi McClain for Holt would push the lead back to double-digits, early on in the fourth quarter 61-47.

But from there, Johns and East Lansing would close out the game in dominant fashion, closing out the game on a 25-5 run.

The Trojans would score 12 out of the next 13 points, including an alley-oop lay-in from Xzavier Odom to cut the deficit down to 62-59 with just under three minutes left to play.

Shortly after, East Lansing would take its first lead since the early stages of the game on back-to-back baskets from Johns to make it 63-62 with under two minutes left to play and a thunderous dunk from the junior with less than 30 seconds left would close out the comeback win for the Trojans (8-0).

“This is one of the biggest wins that we’ve ever had, just because we were down such a big deficit,” Johns said. “We came back through it, with a good effort and came back and won.

Johns finished with a game-high 33 points and 11 rebounds to go along with six blocks and four steals to lead the way for East Lansing, while Odom finished with 16 points on the night.

“He just took over, that’s what Brandon does and we want him to,” Finamore said. “We told Brandon, we want him to take over games and he took it over tonight.”

After Holt built a 38-29 halftime lead, senior Jaron Faulds poured in eight points in the first four minutes of the third quarter to give Holt a 50-34 lead.

Faulds finished with a team-high 24 points, while McClain contributed 11 points as well for Holt (5-3).