With the subregion title and a No. 1 seed on the line, the Evans High School Knights and Lakeside Panthers battled fiercely Saturday night.
Each team took the other’s best shot, but in the end it was the Knights that prevailed, beating the Panthers 66-57.
The win gave the Knights the Region 2A-AAAAA title for the second consecutive year. The Knights (17-8. 7-2 region) were 9-0 a year ago in the county, but head coach Kevin Kenny was OK with a 7-2 mark in 2014 as they reached their ultimate goal.
“We’ve had a few bumps here, but when it’s all said and done, our goal was to be the No. 1 seed on this side and we accomplished that,” Kenny said.
The Panthers (17-5, 6-3) entered the tournament as a No. 2 seed after losing twice to the Knights on their home court during subregion play.
The 2013-14 season has been a remarkable one for the Panthers who were 8-17 with just three subregion wins a year ago.
“I can’t say enough about what our kids have done this year because no one would have ever thought we would be in this situation,” said Panthers’ second-year head coach Jody Hilley.
Patrick Lawrence said he thought he needed to do anything he could to help the Knights win and what he did was put the team on his back Saturday night. He came out on fire from the onset, knocking down four of his first five 3-point attempts in the first half, finishing with a game- and career-high 29 points.
“I felt hot hot from the beginning and I just kept shooting,” Lawrence said.
The Knights sunk 12 3-pointers and built their biggest lead of the night (26-8) after a Lawrence trey with just under four minutes to play in the first half.
The Panthers kept scrapping, closing the gap to 34-23 at halftime and used a 12-2 run to start the third quarter to get within 36-35. The Panthers got within one point five times, but each time they did they couldn’t get the stop or basket that would have given them the lead.
“If we had taken the lead one time we would have broken their backs, I believe,” said Hilley.
Trailing 56-50 with 2:41 to play, the Panthers cut the lead to 56-55 in the span of 29 seconds. Sam Powell sank two free throws, then BJ Raymond made a steal and converted it into a layup with a foul, sinking the free throw for the conventional three-point-play.
With the lead still 56-55, Kameron Mason sank the Knights’ final 3-pointer, burying one deep from the left corner with 1:31 to play after taking a cross-court pass from Matlin Marshall.
“I knew it was coming, I just set my feet and shot it and hoped for the best,” Mason said.
In a physical game, the Knights attempted just 12 free-throw attempts, but made eight, including five of six in the game’s final 37 seconds. K’lon Lovett hit one of those as well as four 3-pointers and complimented Lawrence’s performance with 15 points. Raymond led the Panthers with 15 points while Jake Gilbert finished with 14.