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Host Evans splits in tournament opener

Posted: December 31, 2014 - 12:12am

The host Evans High School girls and boys teams finished off the first day of the Monterrey Christmas Classic in differing fashions Saturday night.

The Lady Knights raced out to a 9-0 lead over the South Aiken Lady Thoroughbreds and won 46-27. In the day’s finale, the Knights and Thoroughbreds battled down to the final seconds with the Thoroughbreds escaping with a 42-39 win.

The Lady Knights improved to 8-3 and advanced to the semifinals of the tournament against Northeast Macon with an aggressive defense that relegated the Lady Thoroughbreds (2-7) to outside shots while they aggressively drove to the baskets.

Lady Knights coach Ryan Morningstar wanted the defense to be the catalyst with the team coming off the Christmas break.

“We felt if we could press early and force some mistakes that would help us,” said Morningstar.

McKenna Lawrence led the Lady Knights with 20 points even though she had issues with her outside shot. “I decided to go to the hoop,” Lawrence said.

Senior Elyssa Melton, who scored 13 points, said that Morningstar preaches that defense wins games.

“We focus on 12 points a quarter and at halftime we had them at 11, so that was a big achievement,” Melton said.

Morningstar likes how his team is progressing thus far. “We’ll get there, we’re continuing to climb the ladder and I feel like we’re getting better,” he said.

In the first half of the season the Knights went 1-9, losing seven games by nine points or less. They had chances late against South Aiken (8-2).

“We’ve been in every single ball game, we just can’t finish,” said Knights coach Kevin Kenny. “We made some mental mistakes down the stretch. Until we correct the mental mistakes then games like this are going to happen.”

Twice in the final minute – once with the lead and then with a chance to tie or go ahead with under 10 seconds left – the Knights couldn’t convert the front end of a one-and one. They grabbed the offensive rebound leading 37-36, but the Thoroughbreds stole the ball and turned it into a layup, forging a 38-37 lead with 37 seconds to play.

With a 37-36 lead with three minutes to play, the Knights held the ball until the Thoroughbreds committed three consecutive fouls to send the Knights to the line for a one-and one with 58 seconds left.

Trailing 38-37, Matlin Marshall scored the last of his team-high 15 points on a layup with 20 seconds, but the Thoroughbreds responded and the Knights missed another one-and-one with nine seconds to go.

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