Region standing wasn't at stake, and it wasn't a championship contest.
What it turned out to be was the best high school in Columbia County in years - a contest that people will talk about for a long time.
Greenbrier High School's Richard Burke (center) fights for position as Evans High School players Marcus Davis (left) and Kendrick Davis apply some pressure. Evans won Tuesday night's match 95-90.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
A game between the Greenbrier Wolfpack and Evans Knights ended in a 95-90 victory for the Knights after three overtimes.
"Anytime a game goes three overtimes, it's got to be pretty good," said Pack coach Danny Black, who was denied his 300th career victory.
"I've had a lot of good experiences throughout coaching, and that game has to be one of them," he said. "I was trying to think, and I can't remember ever coaching in a double overtime game, definitely never in a triple overtime."
On the other sideline was Evans coach Kevin Kenny, who played prep basketball under Black when the two were at Hephzibah High School in the late 1970s.
"It was a great high school basketball game; if not the best one I've ever been involved in, one of the best for sure, just because I played for Coach Black and it's always a special experience when we play against him," Kenny said.
On a night filled with finger rolls, long range sharpshooting and amazing statistics, the game featured 22 lead changes and 12 ties.
Greenbrier's Eric Marshall scored from everywhere on his way to a game-high 38 points, while Pack freshman Eric Taylor poured in 23.
Of all the numbers generated in 44 minutes of action, the ones that truly propelled Evans over the top were posted by the players - six Knights scored in double figures, including 20 points each from John Harris and Teddy Ingram. Kendrick Davis added 18, Marcus Davis had 16, Fernando Mickens scored 11 and Montrez Holloway chipped in 10.
"There's no competition - that's the best game I've ever played in," Davis said. "It's fun while you're out there and it's fun to look back on it and see what you did."
The teams traded leads through much of the first quarter, but Evans surged to a 17-12 advantage on five straight points from Holloway, including the senior's 3-pointer from the top of the key.
A basket by Pack forward Taylor, then a steal and layup by Marshall, trimmed the margin to 17-16 at the end of the first.
Greenbrier was flawless in the second quarter and didn't commit a single turnover.
"We were just trying to control the ball against their press, and we looked real good in the first half," Black said.
Meanwhile, Evans was getting into foul trouble and struggling with tentative defensive play.
"We were watching the ball too much instead of getting to the spots we were supposed to," Kenny explained. "We were a little too pumped up and we weren't rotating our coverage on the press."
The Pack took advantage, as Daniel Jordan tallied two straight put-back buckets to give Greenbrier a 28-26 edge. Marshall later capped a 13-6 run with a buzzer-beating 3-point shot that paced the Pack to a 37-30 halftime lead.
Evans retreated to the locker room, where Kenny pleaded for the Knights to live up to their reputation as a defensive team.
"Coach Kenny said to take pride in the name 'Evans' on our shirt. He told us at halftime that the only way we were going to win the game was to play defense," Harris said.
Although defense did decide the game, Evans first went on the offensive - Ingram came off a screen and began the second half with a 3-point shot. He later canned another bomb to cut the Pack lead to 41-38 and finished with five 3-pointers in the second half.
Greenbrier didn't give ground, though. Taylor made a spin move and lofted in a hook shot to put the Pack up 47-42, and Marshall added two 3-pointers, with the second dropping as the buzzer sounded, to increase the lead to 54-46 heading into the fourth quarter.
The margin remained at eight as the game clock ticked down under the three minute mark.
As Marshall brought the ball across half-court, Ingram and Mickens converged to forced a turnover, and the ball moved ahead to Harris, who was fouled and followed with two successful free throws.
Another Ingram 3-pointer made it 68-65. Then, although he had four fouls, the senior guard stripped Marshall on consecutive Pack possessions; Ingram's steals resulted in four points and a 69-68 Evans lead.
"He wasn't protecting the ball," Ingram said. "He was just dribbling in front of my face and when he tried to cross over I just moved to that side and made the steal."
The Pack recaptured the lead, but Harris hit yet another 3-point shot to put Evans up 72-70 with 8.8 seconds left. Then Marshall ripped off a jump shot to send the game into overtime tied at 72.
In the first overtime, Evans took the last shot - a potential game winner - and missed. Ditto in the second overtime, which left the teams deadlocked at 81 heading into the third.
There was, however, a sign that Greenbrier was running out of gas - during the second overtime, Marshall broke up the middle, where Davis stopped the drive cold by pinning Marshall's shot against the backboard.
After that block, the Pack didn't get off a good shot the rest of the way.
"Our legs started to be a big factor in the ball game," Black admitted. "We made some turnovers there at crucial times, and on offense our shots looked real tired."
Evans sealed the win with fast breaks, steals and free throws. The Knights forced four Pack turnovers in the third overtime and iced the game by hitting nine of 12 shots from the foul line.
Greenbrier's Brian Johnson heaved a final shot from half court and connected to put an exclamation point on an exciting evening.
"It was a good one for spectators," Black said. "The kids played hard all the way to the end. Give Evans credit - they hung in there, and they made a couple of good defensive moves down the stretch."
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