Evangel Christian’s boys basketball team failed its semifinal exam against Lee Scott in two key areas.
The Lions couldn’t solve Lee-Scott’s 2-3 zone defense and had no answer for the Warriors’ inside-out offense.
The struggles in both areas resulted in a 53-42 loss Thursday at Huntingdon College and kept Evangel from advancing to the AISA Class AAA championship game. Lee-Scott (23-2) will play Glenwood (28-3) in Saturday’s 7 p.m. title contest while Evangel season ends at 20-8.
The Lions lost four of their five games against Lee-Scott this season.
“It was difficult,” Evangel coach Kerwin Washington said. “Their press more than anything affected it us. Their press slowed us down a little bit, and we weren’t able to attack the way we wanted to … the way our offense is set up. We didn’t make adjustments in a timely manner and that kind of hurt us. I can’t fault my guys. They fought all the way through. Today just wasn’t our day.”
Evangel dug an early hole.
The Lions trailed 15-8 at the end of the first quarter and 28-19 at halftime while struggling to find an answer for Lee Scott’s zone. When Evangel was patient, the Lions found some open looks.
The problem was staying patient.
On defense, Lee-Scott took advantage of its outside shooting — and the threat of its outside shooting — to score plenty of easy baskets on penetration after countless pump fakes.
Lee-Scott’s Cason Sibley provided the outside threat with a team-leading 19 points including five 3-pointers. Thomas Hardin added 13 points for the Warriors.
Lee-Scott led 41-30 at the end of three quarters and the closest Evangel could come was seven at 42-35 with 5:28 left in the game.
“It’s kind of our MO to start slowly,” Washington said. “We get down and we fight and most of the time find a way to fight back. We just didn’t have enough time. We know them very well. We picked on some of their spots, and they picked on some of ours.
“The future is bright. We are losing about eight seniors, but the nucleus of our team is going to be 10th and 11th graders next year. We got a three-year run where we can keep our guys together, and hopefully, we’ll be strong during that time.”
Evangel was led by VaDual Benson with 12 while senior Jay Grice added eight.
The Gators (28-3) had trouble putting away Kingwood early, holding a seven-point advantage at halftime and a 10-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, but Gators junior guard Anthony Holtzclaw eliminated any doubts of the outcome in the final period.
The Lions had no answer for Holtzclaw’s cuts to the basket.
Though he only scored three points in the first half on a 3-pointer, Holtzclaw scored 14 of the Gators’ 16 points during a critical run that turned a 10-point lead to a 67-50 advantage three minutes into the fourth quarter. Holtzclaw finished with a team-high 19.
The Lions (24-2), who were led by senior center Titus Adams’ 19, never cut Glenwood’s lead underneath 10 the rest of the game. Guards Josh Purvis and John Fillingim each added 10 for the Lions. Senior forward Trotter Barringer scored 18 for the Gators with 13 coming in the first half.
Glenwood plays Lee-Scott in the title game at 7 p.m. Saturday.