Junction City knocks off Mansfield 53-42

MANSFIELD – Defense has been a hallmark of Junction City’s success during the 2023-24 season.

On Wednesday night in the state tournament, it was on full display.

Deon James led three players in double figures with 19 points, as Junction City knocked off Mansfield 53-42 in the opening round of the 2A State Tournament.

The Dragons (20-8), the No. 3 seed from the South, advance to face East Poinsett County (19-11), the No. 1 seed from the North, in the quarterfinals tonight at 8:30 p.m.

The Warriors advanced with a 56-54 win over Sloan-Hendrix on Tuesday.

Mansfield (20-12), the No. 2 seed from the West and hosts of the state tournament, saw their season come to an end with just their second loss at home since January.

“Tonight was the type of game I expected,” Junction City coach Xairius Larry said. “I knew what we were up against going into the game. My guys executed the game plan and we were able to come up with a win. Mansfield was not a pushover, my guys played really good defensively. We were kind of able to speed them up and get easy transition buckets.”

Lamontra Hankton had 13 points and Pechone Larry chipped in with 12 points for Junction City, but it was their defense that allowed them to pull away in the second half.

Nursing a 25-24 lead at intermission, the Dragons held the Tigers to only 18 points in the second half, extending their lead to 39-30 at the end of the third quarter before winning by the final margin.

Junction City has gone 14-4 in their last 18 games, and 60 has been a magic number for the Dragons.

In all 14 of their wins, the Dragons have held their opponents to under 60 points.

Taylen Owens had 4 points, while Dovonte’ Grimes had 3 points and Demarion Henry finished with 2 points to round out Junction City’s scoring.

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