Defense and balanced scoring was a common thread as Evans High School swept by North Augusta at home Tuesday night.
The Lady Knights’ suffocating first-half defense helped them to a 10-point halftime advantage, they built it to 15 entering the final quarter and cruised to the 59-39 win. In the nightcap, the Knights used a strong start to the second half to give themselves some breathing room and finished off the Yellow Jackets, 52-43.
The Lady Knights forced 24 turnovers – with 18 steals – in the first half while building their lead. In the first quarter alone, the unselfish Lady Knights (3-1) had six different players in the scoring column with four different ones recording assists.
“The girls are starting to understand their roles on this team and what we need from them each and every night,” said Lady Knights’ head coach Ryan Morningstar. “All nine played, and all nine contributed.”
While not hitting a 3-pointer until 21 seconds were left in the third quarter, senior guard Jasmine Stone still led the Lady Knights with 22 points. She got to the hoop for layups on fast breaks as well as feeding teammates for easy scores. Autumn Johnson scored all 12 of her points in the first half, Acacia Blue and McKenna Lawrence had eight points, Elyssa Melton had seven and Tyra Dennis finished with two.
The Lady Yellow Jackets’ (0-2) Cyndey Matthews scored 11 of her team-high 13 points in the first half before the Lady Knights put the clamps on her in the second half.
“We tried to force them to make a couple more passes,” Morningstar said. “The first half we were kind of content to see what they would do and then get transition points. The second half we focused on trying to get them to work a half-court offense and see if we could get some stops.”
Like the girls, the Knights got scoring from 10 different players on a night when one of their best weapons – the 3-pointer – wasn’t dropping with regularity. Despite being outsized, the Knights’ intensity on the boards and aggressive defensive style helped them remain perfect at 6-0.
“We’ve got four or five kids who can score,” said Knights’ head coach Kevin Kenny. “If you look in our box score it’s usually a different person (leading) every night and multiple double-digit scorers. We’ve got a lot of kids who can score.”
The Knights sank just four 3-pointers on the night, but three were big ones.
Coming out of the break leading 28-24, Knights’ junior guard Kameron Mason sank treys on consecutive possessions and when senior guard Patrick Lawrence buried one from long range with 3:55 left in the third quarter, the Knights built their lead to 37-27.
“I came out after halftime with a more positive look at my shot and shooting with more confidence,” said Mason, who led the Knights with 16 points and three 3-pointers.
After a Christian Miles 3-pointer got the Yellow Jackets within 40-34, the Knights closed out the third quarter on a Matlin Marshall pull-up jumper and a Justin Jackson jumper off a feed from Dedrick Story to build the lead back to 10.
The Knights led by as much as 14 points with 2:20 to play before the Yellow Jackets scored the game’s last five points.
While his shot from long range wasn’t falling, K’lon Lovett heeded his coach’s halftime advice and started scoring from a few steps inside the arc, driving to the hoop and getting to the free-throw line. He would finish with 11 points for the night.
The Yellow Jackets scored in double digits in just two of the four quarters and Kenny was pleased with his team’s defensive effort.
“We’re a very good defensive team and we did a good job for the most part tonight,” Kenny said.