Shooters shoot. John Milledge senior Parker Blenk is a shooter, so he shot.
But Blenk wasn’t firing blanks Tuesday night when he and the Trojans (13-4 overall, 6-2 region) hosted region opponent Bethlehem Christian. The sharpshooter was very much on target as he went 15-of-21 from beyond the arc and finished the contest with 47 points, setting new school records for both points scored and three-pointers made in a single game.
The John Milledge boys won the Region 4-AAA ballgame by the way, 76-62 over the visitors from Bethlehem, but Blenk’s performance was all anyone was talking about inside the Trojan Center Tuesday. The building was well past abuzz and approaching aflame in the second quarter when the senior splashed home nine treys in a row.
Ironically enough, the previous JMA single-game points record holder was in the building to witness the show. Andrew Prestwood, a Class of 2017 graduate, set the school mark at 46 points his junior year on the road at Westfield. He shared a little bit on what it was like watching his record fall.
“It was surprising. When you see someone get really hot from 3 they usually settle down, but Parker never settled down. I’ve never seen somebody hit nine in a row,” Prestwood told The Union-Recorder.
Prestwood, John Milledge’s career scoring record owner at over 2,000 points, wasn’t the only one surprised. Blenk says he didn’t feel the record-setting performance coming on, especially after what happened in the Trojans’ game Friday versus Loganville Christian. He finished that game scoreless on an 0-for-8 night from three and even missed his two free throw attempts.
“It honestly hurt mentally knowing that I couldn’t really do anything for my team, but my teammates after the game came and picked me up,” Blank said. “They told me to shake it off and not to dwell on it. There was another region game to look ahead to, so I had to keep getting after it.”
He knew his team needed him, but that doesn’t mean he saw the massive turnaround coming.
“It was a big game because it was in the region and it was Senior Night, so I knew the season and my time here are close to coming to an end, but little did I know that was going to happen,” he said. “I’ve never shot that well in my life.”
Although everyone in Trojan blue and gold was all smiles at the end of the night, things did not exactly get off to a promising start. Bethlehem was up 17-12 through the first quarter, a period in which Blenk hit just a pair of threes. That total, normally impressive for a single quarter, wound up modest by Tuesday’s standard. The splash parade started at just under the six-minute mark in the second. Blenk’s third three of the frame gave John Milledge the lead, but it was the fourth, his sixth overall, that should have let the visitors know they were in trouble. Blenk’s release on that attempt from the right wing was far from clean, but it still kissed off the glass and through the hoop to put the Trojans up 26-21. That marked his fourth three-pointer in about a minute and a half’s time, and he still wasn’t finished. Blenk kept shooting and they kept falling. The senior even mixed in the famous Michael Jordan shoulder shrug, showing fans he was just as shocked as they were. Once the half was done, Blenk was already sitting on an incredible 33 points all from behind the arc. The nine he hit in a row came in only about four and a half minutes of game time. Bethlehem was trying to slow him down, but it just wasn’t in the cards.
The visiting Knights attempted to battle back in the fourth, getting as close as only five points down, but the Trojans got the stops and points when they needed them. Blenk’s final three, the 15th one that gave him the single game record for points scored, came with less than a minute and a half to go.
“I’ve definitely never seen 15 three-pointers made in a high school game,” JMA head coach David Gallagher said. “Him hitting nine in a row was the unreal part about it. It felt like it all happened at one time. They (Bethlehem) came out pretty strong and were beating us through the first quarter and a half, but he just went off. That was very fun to watch because it was like there was nothing anybody could do about it. That was a shooting clinic.”
Slightly overshadowed by Blenk’s big night was the performance of sophomore Marcus Prestwood who posted a triple-double. Prestwood, younger brother to Andrew, had 15 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, eight of which went to Blenk. Both players’ success is tied strongly to that of the team.
The Trojan win coupled with a Loganville win Tuesday over Augusta Prep locks John Milledge into the second seed entering next week’s five-team Region 4-AAA tournament.
“As a team we haven’t lost two in a row this season, so when we get beat we usually respond pretty well coming off a loss,” Gallagher added. “I felt good about how we responded in practice yesterday, so I thought we would play well. I did not expect Parker to go from Friday night to Tuesday night shooting like he did, but I'm sure glad he did. It was good for him and it was good for us because we need him scoring at a high level for us to be successful. I think that gives us some confidence going into tournament time.”
The Trojans will be on the road for a non-region contest tonight at Piedmont Academy. They will return to their home floor next week for the Region 4-AAA tournament where they will try to make it four titles in a row.