In a packed Greenbrier gymnasium Friday night, the chant from the Evans student section said it all.
"Make your free throws," was the phrase raining down on a Wolfpack team that hit only 42.9 percent (6-of-14) from the free-throw line in the final quarter.
Evans knocked down 20-of-24 fourth-quarter free-throws en route to a 64-59 win.
"It was clear we didn't make our free throws down the stretch," Greenbrier coach Casey Dees said. "That made the difference in the ball game."
Though the win came down to converting from the charity stripe, it didn't come easy for the Knights.
Greenbrier took a 16-point loss from Evans in the championship game of the Turkey Tip-Off Tournament at Lakeside on Nov. 22. Playing host to the Knights 10 days later, the Wolfpack threw everything they had into the highly anticipated rematch.
Evans struggled with Greenbrier's full-court press early in the first half. The extra pressure increased the game tempo and forced several Knights turnovers.
"We knew they were going to press," Evans coach Kevin Kenny said. "We didn't handle it well at all."
When the Knights did break the press, their normally powerful half-court offense was stymied by Greenbrier's new 1-3-1 zone defense.
"We've only been working on it for two days," Dees said of the new defense. "These kids have really bought into the system."
While most of the Knights offense floundered against an unfamiliar defense, Evans still managed a 31-23 halftime lead thanks to the shooting orchestrated by starting guard Glenn Miller.
The senior knocked down five first-half 3-pointers and scored 11 of the Knights' 17 first-quarter points.
"Glenn carried us in the first half," Kenny said. "We've could have been in a much bigger hole if it wasn't for him."
The second half saw Greenbrier battle back with more hard-nose defense. The Wolfpack held Evans to only eight third-quarter points and limited high-scoring point guard Brandon Durr to only four points for the entire game.
"They were keying on him," Kenny said of the Greenbrier defense's success in stopping Durr. "In fact, Glenn (Miller) was often open because of that."
While the defense held, Greenbrier senior Sean Gray knocked down two free throws to end the third quarter with Evans hanging on to a slim 39-38 lead.
In the fourth quarter, a dismal free-throw shooting performance hurt the Greenbrier offense, while the team took severe blows when Anthony Williams and Luther Holmes fouled out.
Miller finished with a game-high 25 points to lead Evans to their first region win of the season.
Although a region loss was hard for the Wolfpack to swallow, Dees said, he was proud of his out-sized Greenbrier squad.
"Our kids gave them everything they had tonight," he said. "I can't complain. We played a good ball game."
In the girl's region match-up, the Lady Wolfpack survived with a 50-46 win.
Greenbrier trailed 21-17 at halftime, but outscored the Lady Knights 33-25 in the second half.
Starting guard Michelle Sweic knocked down 8-of-11 free throws, while junior Tiffany Blackburn scored 13 points, including three 3-pointers, in the win.
"The first half kind of stunned us," Greenbrier coach Garrett Black said. "We played hard but had a horrible night shooting."
Although Evans turned in a positive first-half showing, the Lady Knights couldn't convert in the second half. Evans coach Tim Whitfield said the region game on the road was a valuable learning tool.
"Our seniors are starting to grow up," Whitfield said. "Lauren (Middleton) has improved and been the most consistent for us."
Middleton scored 14 points for the Lady Knights, while sophomore Janay Moore added 17 points.
Both Evans squads will play host to Jones County in their first home region games of the season Friday, with the girls' game beginning at 6 p.m.
Greenbrier's squads will play host to Westside on Friday with the girls' game starting at 7 p.m.
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