In its first state basketball tournament appearance since before 1990, the Evans Lady Knights ensured it was a happy one.
After building a huge first half lead, the Lady Knights held on for the 62-57 win over the Bradwell Institute Lady Tigers Tuesday night in the 2012-2013 Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA Girls State Basketball Tournament’s opening round.
“It feels really great to be part of history, actually,” said senior guard Allysha McFarland, who hit 10 of 12 free throws and scored 12 of her 17 points in the fourth quarter. “The girls in the future can look up to us and want to be like us and even do better than us. It feels really great.”
It was a total team effort that led to the Lady Knights (19-8) advancing to the tournament’s second round at Hardaway Friday night. From Ellysa Melton and Taylor McChesney making big blocks and grabbing tough rebounds to players setting screens for Jasmine Stone to get free and knock down shots, which she did with regularity in the second quarter.
Stone made layups, free throws and 3-pointers as she scored 15 of her game-high 25 points in the stanza while the Lady Knights led by as much as 36-18.
The Lady Tigers (15-13) refused to go away, however, but the Lady Knights had an answer each time they got close.
“We knew they were going to come out because they weren’t just going to give it to us,” said Stone of the Lady Tigers’ second-half effort. “We knew we were going to have to work but we just pushed through it.”
The Lady Knights led 36-23 at halftime, but each time the Lady Tigers would get close, however, the Lady Knights had a momentum stopper. After an 11-3 run in the third period brought the Lady Tigers within 39-34, Evans’ Autumn Johnson buried a 3-pointer and McFarland hit a free throw to end the third up 43-34.
Melton (10 points) blocked an almost-sure layup with 3:19 to play that would have cut the Lady Knights’ lead to one point, then McFarland hit free throws to stretch the lead back to five.
With 2:25 to go leading 55-50, the Lady Knights grabbed four offensive rebounds in one series before McFarland was fouled and sank a pair of free throws to extend the lead to seven.
After making all three free-throw attempts in the first half, the Lady Knights converted 21 of 28 chances in the second half.
Jakaria Fleming led the Lady Tigers with 16 points, Kelissa Hardgrove had 13 while Shaquoia Crockett and Akeyla Richardson each had 12.
Head coach Ryan Morningstar didn’t care what the final margin of victory was, just that there was one.
“A win’s a win at this point and our name is moving on in the brackets and these girls deserve it for everything they’ve done,” said Morningstar. “A lot of people have said you’ve had a good season, I said no, we’re still playing.”