Knight accomplishes mission

PALMDALE – One by one, each player and coach from the Knight High School boys basketball team took a pair of scissors and cut a piece of the net from one of the basketball hoops.

It’s a tradition reserved for champions, and on Thursday, the Hawks became just that, winning its sixth Golden League title since 2007 with its 74-39 home victory over Quartz Hill. Knight head coach Tom Hegre said it’s the first time the team has cut the net after its season.

“It was magicial,” Hawks senior Devon Martin said of how he felt when cutting his piece of the net. “I have no other word to describe it.”

Knight’s road to the 2016-17 title had some bumps in the road. Midway through the season, the Hawks dropped five straight non-league games in a tournament that included powerhouses Mater Dei and St. Bernard.

In its first GL affair in almost a month, Knight lost 71-60 to Highland on the road. Losing that game caused every player on Knight’s roster to look in the mirror.

Hegre then wrote the numbers 1 through 9 on the board in Knight’s team room, which sent a message to the team that it needed to take things one game at a time in order to sweep the next nine games on the schedule. The Hawks completed their mission in dominant fashion, winning their last nine games by an average margin of 34.7 points.

“For these guys to come back in the last nine games and run the table the way that they did, it was pretty sweet, but it was kind of special,” Hegre said. “So we wanted to do something special for our guys.”

That something special turned out to be the net-cutting ceremony. Hawks senior center Jude Ezechukwu said as he cut his portion of the net, that was the moment he realized he was a Golden League champion.

Martin led the Hawks in scoring on Thursday with 19 points, while Ezechukwu added 15. Knight held an 11-point lead at halftime, but attacked the basket more in the third quarter en route to a 48-31 lead going into the fourth.

Knight started the fourth quarter with four consecutive layups, and outscored the Rebels 26-8 to cruise to a victory.

Rebels senior shooting guard Albert Dummett scored a team-high 18 points and made three 3-pointers.

Highland won its game against Eastside on Thursday, finishing the season with a 13-l GL record. As a result, Knight and Highland will share the GL title this season. The two teams have shared the crown three times since 2008.

After the Hawks finished cutting down the net, players and coaches posed for photos with friends and family. Thursday also marked Knight’s final home game of the season, and the team’s four seniors were recognized before the game.

The Hawks will learn which team it will face in the CIF Southern Section playoffs on Sunday, when the brackets will be released. Martin said the team wants to win it all this year, and will have to focus on “every little thing that we have to” in order to accomplish that goal.

“We just have to keep doing what we’re doing,” Martin said. “We have to stay focused, we have to stay locked in and stay humble most of all.”

Hegre made an all-encompassing remark to a fan after the game when discussing Knight’s looming playoff run.

“We’re not done yet,” Hegre said. “Just getting started.”