Evans High got off to a slow start in the ABR Tip Off Tournament Friday night, but wasted little time making up for it.
Facing the Region 2-AAAAAA Rockdale County Bulldogs (Conyers, Ga.), the Knights saw the Bulldogs knock down three-3-pointers while building a 17-5 lead at the end of the first period.
By the end of the half, however, the Knights turned the 12-point deficit into a 39-21 lead, outscoring the Bulldogs by a 34-4 margin as they went on to the 79-64 win.
By the end, 13 players on the Knights roster would end up on the stat sheet.
One of the Knights’ trademarks is tough defense, and that’s what pulled them back into the game. Time and again the Knights (2-0) turned the Bulldogs over in the second period, converting the turnovers into points on the other end.
“We stepped up defensively in the second quarter, we started getting in the passing lanes and started to contest some shots and got a couple of easy runouts,” said Knights’ coach Kevin Kenny. “I think definitely our defensive intensity increased the second quarter, which led us to some easy baskets and that jump-started our offense.”
Using a five-guard set, the Knights took turns taking over the game, using a 10-0 run to start the second period.
Junior Matlin Marshall hit two free throws and a 3-pointer to get the team going, then his steal led to junior Kameron Mason’s free throw. Mason followed that up with consecutive conventional three-point-plays to tie the score at 17 with 4:51 left in the half.
When Mason came out of the game after picking up his third personal foul, senior Patrick Lawrence took over, scoring nine of the team’s next 11 points as the Knights went up 28-20.
“We picked up our defense and really realized they can’t run with us, so we just ran them the whole time,” said senior K’lon Lovett of the second period.
In the stanza, the Knights sank 12-of-14 free throws after hitting three-of-nine in the first period. They finished 23-of-36 from the line for the night.
The Bulldogs came out attacking in the second half, getting the Knights in foul trouble early. They would go to the line often, but made just 23-of-45 attempts.
The Bulldogs (0-2) closed to within 55-43 seconds into the fourth period, but Lovett, who tied Lawrence for game-high with 17 points, drained 3-pointers on the ensuing two possessions to quickly build the lead back to 18, effectively ending the threat.
Lovett and Lawrence would both finish with three 3-pointers while Marshall added 13 points and two treys to the mix. Mason scored nine points before sitting once again after picking up his fourth personal and didn’t get back in the game as the Knights built their lead to as many as 27 points.
The Bulldogs outscored the Knights 12-0 in the game’s final three minutes to account for the final margin.