EAST LANSING – Brandon Johns wasn’t going to be denied.
After spending more than a quarter confined to the bench with an eye injury, the East Lansing junior forward was anxious to help his team fight its way back from a double-digit deficit.
And a monster second-half performance from Johns succeeded in making that happen.
Johns scored 26 of his game-high 33 points in the second half and added 11 rebounds and six blocks to help East Lansing rally to a 70-66 victory over Holt on Friday in a matchup of CAAC Blue unbeaten.
“(Brandon) really willed us to the victory tonight,” East Lansing coach Steve Finamore said.
“He had fire in his eyes. He didn’t want to lose.”
The Trojans (8-0, 5-0 CAAC Blue) overcame a 16-point second-half deficit behind Johns to extend its streak of consecutive regular season wins to 27 while taking early control in the league race.
Jaron Faulds had 24 points before fouling out to lead Holt (5-3, 4-1), which had just one field goal in the game’s final five minutes.
“We have such great guys this year and we were leading them the whole game,” Faulds said. “We just let it go at the end. We fought hard up until the fourth quarter. We just gave it away at the end.”
Johns exited the game in the middle stages of the second quarter after getting poked in the eye and was confined to the bench after having troubles opening his eye. Johns eventually returned with 3:49 left in the third quarter and East Lansing trailing 50-34. He took over upon his return, and displayed an aggressive approach that changed the tone of the game.
“My mentality was I’ve got to get my team back in the game,” Johns said. “When you’re down like that it’s kind of urgent. I just had to get my team back in the game.”
Johns scored 17 points in the fourth quarter and hit the go-ahead basket with just under two minutes remaining to help lift the Trojans, who closed the contest on a 19-4 run. He only missed one shot following his return and threw down a few dunks during his torrid finish.
“Brandon, he’s a different type of player in a good way,” said East Lansing senior Xzavier Odom, who had 16 points. “He can turn it on like that and this proves why he’s one of the best players in the country.
“I could see when he was sitting down that he didn’t like it at all. He wanted to help us. When he got back on the court, he gave it his all.”
Contact Brian Calloway at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.