STORY BY CORY WOODROOF | PHOTOS BY WHITNEY JARRELD
It takes a lot talent and skill to build a big lead in basketball, but it takes just as much to keep one, if not just a little bit extra on top of that.
While Camden got within about 10 for a while in the second half after the Knights led by about 20 at half, Nolensville took care of business Wednesday night in the Region 6-AA semifinals with a 70-53 victory.
Jayden Watkins attributed the steadying of the ship after Camden’s surge back to being poised.
“We’ve got to stay poised,” he said. “That’s how we won this game, by staying in control.”
The team both earned a spot in the region finals game against Murfreesboro Central Magnet Friday and cemented a sectionals appearance for Monday.
“I was very proud of our guys being able to play so long without our post presence; Nate [Bloedorn] was in foul trouble,” Knights head coach Wes Lambert said of the second-half effort. “We picked up the energy, brought some guys in off the bench. They just sparked us. I really think that was the difference.”
A key moment came when Davin Watkins, Jayden’s younger brother, got in the game, got a basket, took a tumble, got a foul and make it a three-point play. It was noticeable that Camden’s second-half surge slowed a bit after that.
“That’s something great to see,” the elder Watkins said of Davin’s big moment. “Most brothers see it from the stands. I’m blessed to see it on the court with him. That just made me so excited for him.”
Bloedorn led the team in points with 20, while Reese Gilbert had 13 and Jayden Watkins had 11.
From here on, the Knights will take on a familiar foe in Murfreesboro Central Magnet.
Nolensville topped the team twice in the regular season, but MCM seems to be in a new mode, taking down Fairview on the road Monday and 12-AA MVP K.J. Johnson and Marshall Co. Wednesday.
If Nolensville is successful, they’ll win their second-straight region title and host a play-in game for the Class AA state tournament.
“Early on, we talked about our goal was to get to the Glass House, but we went away from that because we didn’t want to lose sight of the present,” Lambert said. “It’s nice now the present is coming together with our ultimate goal.
“Knowing that we’re one game away from [state], it gives us a sense of pride that what we’ve done this year, that the body of work we’ve put together is getting us prepared.”
The road back home starts Friday night.
“It’s always hard to play a team that many times and be successful,” Lambert said of taking on Central. “It’s going to be a battle.”
Jayden Watkins foresees “a great defensive game” when the ball tips off out at East Hickman High School at 7:00 p.m. Friday.