As the Evans High School boys basketball team prepared for the final game before the Christmas break, coach Kevin Kenny gave them one instruction.
"We told them we want to be more consistent - to improve as a team," he said recently.
The Knights consistently hovered around a 40 percent shooting average from the field Friday night for a 63-56 win over Harlem. The seven-point victory wasn't even that close, as Evans built a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter. Harlem ended the game on a 12-2 run, but it wasn't enough to keep Evans from earning its seventh win of the season.
"I think we've gotten better every game," Kenny said. "Brandon Skinner and Brandon McCladdie - both have done a good job coming off the bench this year."
Skinner hit double figures Friday night with all 10 of his points coming in the second half. Evans leading scorer Brandon Durr didn't disappoint the home crowd with a 24-point performance despite sitting most of the fourth quarter on the bench.
DeMarcus Morris scored 14 points for Harlem and led the way in the losing effort along with sophomore teammate Cedric Boatner (12 points).
"It's the same thing. We have to play four full quarters of basketball, and we haven't done that yet," Harlem coach Kim Chambers said.
In the girls game, the Lady Knights led for only 2.6 seconds in the fourth quarter, but it was the final 2.6 seconds and gave Evans a 37-36 win over Harlem.
The Lady Bulldogs took a 21-20 lead on a Kelley Hamilton score with 4:23 left in the third quarter. Harlem kept the lead for most of the half because of an Evans offense that did not score a single point in the entire third quarter.
"We played Cross Creek and beat them after we scored only four points in the third quarter," Evans girls basketball coach Tim Whitfield said. "I don't know. I guess there's just something about that third quarter."
In the fourth quarter, Evans' Taylor Jones and Brittany Brooker combined for five 3-pointers to spark a late rally. Harlem still held a six-point advantage with 2 minutes left, but Brooker nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game with a minute remaining.
With 3.6 seconds left, Harlem tried to inbound the ball on the far sideline, but the pass was stolen by Evans' Tarah Henderson. The junior was fouled on the fast break lay-up, and she hit one of two free throws with 2.6 seconds on the clock to take the lead for good.
"We were kind of flat at first and had a hard time finding our shot," Whitfield said. "Once we got our adrenaline flowing this team didn't quit."
The 27-25 win gave the Lady Knights their fifth victory of the season.
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