The Evans Middle School boys' basketball team started the 2003-04 season with a specific philosophy in mind.
"We didn't lose a game in football, so why start now?" coach Blake Crewe said of the Knights' plan.
Evans Middle didn't go unbeaten, but with a 42-23 home victory over Greenbrier Middle School last week, the Knights finished with a 13-1 record to post the best mark this season among the boys' middle-school basketball teams in Columbia County.
"We were hoping to go undefeated, but we learned from our loss to Lakeside that you can't get a big head," Evans center Jonathan Nicely said. "All the games were tough, but we worked together and pulled it out."
In football, Evans went 6-0, and by taking top honors in basketball, the Knights have two down and one to go.
"A majority of our athletes play all three sports. They said from the beginning, in football, basketball and baseball, they wanted it all," Crewe said. "I like that attitude, and we'll try to go as far as we can with it."
In the season finale Friday, Evans withstood an early run by Greenbrier, then the Knights cruised to an easy win.
The Knights switched from zone into a man-to-man defense in the second quarter, and the pressure worked, as Evans increased its lead to 20-10 at halftime.
The third quarter was all Evans. The Knights cleaned up on the offensive boards and used a tight defense to outscore the Pack 14-0 in the quarter pull away.
Nicely led the Knights with 13 points, four blocked shots and a steal. Deronte Williams scored eight points, Kevin Millward was a force in the paint (six points and four steals), and Brandon McCladdie provided a spark with six points, two steals and a blocked shot.
Guards Teddy Leverett and Eric Voldness dished out assists and applied defensive pressure in the frontcourt, while Chris Marshall and Zach Hooks contributed quality play off the bench.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Knights celebrated just as they had played all season - as a team.
"Overall, it was a good season," Williams said. "I think God helped us out, because we prayed before every game."
The Knights also are blessed with natural talent.
"This is the best group of athletes we've had at this school since I've been here," Crewe said. "It's almost as if each year a different school has a group of great athletes. It looks like this is our year."
Though many of the Knights have completed their middle-school basketball careers, they will soon pick up bats and gloves and hit the diamond. With baseball season approaching, Evans Middle School is poised to sweep county honors in the top three sports.
Columbia County's other middle-school baseball teams might have other ideas.
"Baseball is going to be tough. So many characteristics go into baseball," Crewe said. "We have the athletes to do it, but we'll have to take it one game at a time."
Evans Middle School Basketball roster
Teddy Leverett, Brandon McCladdie, Eric Voldness, Marlon Costen, Chris Marshall, Zach Hooks, Harrison Zeigler, Joseph Wood, Bryan Jennell, Tevin Toussaint, Deronte Williams, Jonathan Nicely, Kevin Millward, Nathan Hall, Corey Tenanes.
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