Mansfield senior Verlan Hunter had to leave Friday night’s game in the third quarter with a bloody nose after one of his teammates ran into him.
But Hunter’s brief exit re-energized him, and he returned to lead the Wolverines (18-7, 6-0) to a 62-42 win.
“I was able to get a little bit of rest, some time to breathe,” said Hunter, who scored 13 of his game-high 25 points in the third quarter. “We just kept playing and stayed focused.”
Evangel (11-13, 3-3) had hung close with Mansfield, the No. 5 team in the LSWA Class 2A poll, in the first half.
“We came in focused,” Mansfield coach Chris Thomas said. “We’ve talked about it all year. We know that, in our district, anybody can beat anybody else on a given night, especially when you are playing on the road. Every game is tough on the road. Evangel is a good team. Their record by no means describes that team. They are a tough, physical team.”
Mansfield’s defense kept the Eagles off the scoreboard for the first four and a half minutes of the game, and the Wolverines led 7-0.
But Evangel made a run to get back in the game early, with Trent Taylor hitting a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left in the first quarter to give the Eagles their only lead of the game at 12-11.
It didn’t last long, as Arkez Cooper made a layup right before the buzzer.
Brandon Campbell, who finished with 17 for Mansfield, hit two long jumpers in the second quarter to spur the Wolverines to a 28-20 halftime lead.
“We know that defense wins games, and our goal is always to hold our opponent to less than 40 points,” Thomas said. “And we did it, until we came in with our younger guys. We played a great game, a really good game on defense.”
Mansfield kept defensive pressure on Evangel in the third quarter, and Hunter scored seven straight points to end the quarter. Just two Evangel players finished in double-figure scoring (Benny Pineset and Calvin Daniels each had 11 and Taylor added nine points).
“(Our defense) is basically no inside shots and take shooters out of their games,” Hunter said. “We kept communicating and finding their shooters on the perimeter.”
Hunter and Campbell both hit jumpshots early in the fourth quarter to help Mansfield extend its lead to 20 points.
“When we have Brandon and Verlan both shooting like that, it’s tough,” Thomas said. “And then when you add our inside guys rebounding like they did tonight, it’s really tough on people.”
Mansfield was able to run clock on offense and close out the game in the fourth quarter.
“This was very important tonight,” Hunter said. “Every district game, especially on the road, is a big deal. We’re building momentum, and we hope to carry it over into the playoffs.”
Mansfield has now won seven straight games and will try to extend the streak at home against North Webster on Tuesday.
“I still think our guys are playing with a chip on their shoulders,” Thomas said. “You have to earn your respect.”