The defending Region 2A-AAAAA champion Evans High School basketball teams split Tuesday night when they played host to Greenbrier.
The Lady Knights fell into a big hole early and couldn’t climb back out, losing 55-44, to the Lady Wolfpack. Using the same model, the Knights built a large first-half cushion and made it stand up, beating the Wolfpack 73-59.
As well as sending a message, Evans head coach Kevin Kenny was pleased with the win because it helped signal a return to what he calls “the Evans way.” After the Knights lost twice at their Christmas tournament, they rebounded with a win over Cedar Shoals on Saturday with a good defensive effort. Kenny liked what he saw early on Tuesday night as well.
“We limited their touches and just played good hard-nosed man-to-man defense that first half,” said Kenny.
Roderick Demmons hit a free thow to open the game for the Wolfpack (6-7, 0-1 region), but that would be their final lead of the night. With the game still relatively close, the Knights (10-4, 1-0) got a 3-pointer from Patrick Lawrence with 17 seconds left and another trey by Kameron Mason with one second left as they finished the first quarter up 21-7.
The Knights K’lon Lovett took over in the second quarter, scoring 14 of his team-high 21 points as the Knights built their advantage to 41-23 at halftime.
Calling the Knights the best defensive team they’ve played this season, Wolfpack head coach Casey Heckathorn still thought they missed some first-half opportunities.
“They made their shots in the paint, we didn’t,” Heckathorn said. “They made 3’s, we didn’t make any. I feel the scoreboard was bigger than the game was going. We were getting similar looks, we just weren’t making them. So I didn’t think we were in that bad of shape and it showed in the second half.”
The Wolfpack made runs in the second half, but each time they did the Knights had an answer.
Jakob Nelson and Demmons drained a pair of 3’s midway through the third quarter to slice the Knights’ lead to 48-35. Lovett answered with a trey of his own on the Knights’ next possession to stem the tide.
Up by 17 early in the fourth, the Knights saw their advantage shrink to 59-51 with 4:40 to play as the Wolfpack used a 9-0 run to climb back into the game.
The Knights quickly erased the notion of a comeback with two conventional 3-point-plays. Lovett fed Myreon Bennett for a layup and free throw before Kameron Mason got a putback and was fouled on the ensuing possession, sinking the free throw as the lead climbed to 65-51 with just over four minutes to go.
Lovett led the Knights with 21 points, Lawrence added 12 while Matlin Marshall, Mason and Bennett each had 10.
Demmons led Greenbrier with 21 points, Kayshawn Marshall had 14 and Justen Hartfield chipped in with 13.
After playing three nail-biters against the Lady Knights a year ago, the Lady Wolfpack ensured that would not be the case Tuesday.
Behind the hot shooting of Jennifer McMahan, the Lady Wolfpack jumped out to a 16-6 first-quarter lead and led 33-22 at the break, at which point McMahan had scored 20 points. She would finish with a game-high 24 points while sinking five 3-pointers.
“I wanted to come out and set the tone for my team and luckily they went in,” said McMahan of her shots...“The first quarter set the tone for the game and they had to play from behind instead of us playing from behind, which is good.”
Lady Wolfpack (11-3, 1-0) head coach Stefanie Basinger liked what she saw from McMahan and the rest of her team.
“She’s (McMahan) been shooting well all season, scoring consistently, but we’ve got a lot of scorers on the floor and that certainly helps us,” Basinger said.
In the second half it was Destiny Marshall’s turn for the Lady Wolfpack as she scored 14 of her 15 points.
The Lady Knights (9-3, 0-1) played the Lady Wolfpack to a draw in the second half and were led by Jasmine Stone’s 18 points while McKenna Lawrence added 13.
“They’ve got a great coach, they’ve got a great team and they battled, but I think we had our chances tonight,” said Lady Knights head coach Ryan Morningstar. “We missed several shot opportunities we normally hit. Tonight they just didn’t fall. We’re not a team with with a lot of depth, we’ve got eight, nine girls and when you have four with four fouls, that changes your game plan tremendously.”
The Lady Wolfpack especially took advantage of their opportunities from the charity stripe, sinking 16-of 22 attempts while the Lady Knights converted just 8-of-18 chances.
Even with the win, Basinger knows that it is a long season.
“It’s still too early to call anything and I know they’re going to come back with a vengeance,” Basinger said.