Richard Johnson had the kind of game most prep basketball players only dream about last Friday night.
The senior point guard at Thomson High School scored a season-high 33 points to lift his team to a 75-60 victory over the visiting Hancock Central Bulldogs from Sparta. The Dog House at Thomson High was packed with a standing room-only crowd of about 1,700 people. The crowd was so large that a number of people were refused admittance because of state fire marshal regulations.
Earlier this season, Hancock Central defeated Thomson in Sparta by six points. The latest game between the two schools, however, belonged to Johnson and his teammates at Thomson High School.
"I knew I had to step it up, so that's what I tried to do," said Johnson after his sensational performance against Hancock Central. "I'm just glad we were able to get the win."
Johnson was terrific from long range - connecting on six three-pointers. Ronkeem Sallywhite hit two such shots, while Deandra Williams hit one shot from that distance. Sallywhite ended up having scored eight points.
Two other players also figured prominently in the game for Thomson. They included freshman center Jonathan Atkins and his Radney Tutt.
"I'd never started a game before, so I knew I had to step it up," said Atkins, who scored a big basket in the second half that helped Thomson catch fire, offensively.
Atkins had two earlier shots blocked in the game by Hancock Central's Kammeon Holsey, the 6-8 center, who scored 23 points in the latest game against Thomson. Holsey has signed to play with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets following graduation.
"He got me twice, so I had to get him back," said Atkins, referring to a block shot he made against Holsey in the second half.
Atkins, who scored only six points, yanked down a number of rebounds and made several exceptional passes to teammates that led to baskets. He recently was hailed a "hero" by family members after helping save eight lives during a house fire. Atkins and his family lost everything they owned two days after Christmas. The family is now staying in area motels until they can find a home.
Tutt, meanwhile, who scored 11 points, expressed pleasure in the way the Bulldogs played.
"I thought we played pretty well against Hancock Central," said Tutt, who turned in an outstanding defensive game, too.
Tutt and Johnson both feel that if the Bulldogs continue to work hard and not let up only good things are in store for the team during the second half of the 2008-09 basketball season.
Other Thomson players having a good, sound game against Hancock Central included Brandon Turman, 9; Darius Eubanks, Marvin Ramsey and Dexter Sneed.
At halftime, the score was 29-29.
In the third quarter, Thomson pulled out to a six-point lead before Hancock Central, behind the exceptional play of Holsey, helped them to a 52-48 lead at the end of the third period.
Turman hit a jumper with 6:53 to play in the game, which gave Thomson a 53-52 lead. Johnson later showed some of his defensive talent, stealing the ball and going to coast-to- coast to make a layup that gave extended Thomson's lead to 59-54. Johnson later sank a three-pointer to make it a 62-54 game.
From that point on, Thomson simply took the game to Hancock Central.
"I was real proud of the way we played as a team during the second half," said Thomson Head Coach Michael Thomas. "I thought we could have played much better than we did in the first half. We still need to learn to box-out better than we have been doing."
Thomson plays host to the Washington County Golden Hawks this Friday night and then hit the road to Elberton on Saturday night.