Evans sparks Lady Eagles’ comeback win over Southside in county tournament championship

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By Chris McCarthy/Editor

Hannah Evans had no intention of going 3-for-4 for her high school career in Etowah County Basketball Tournament title games.

The Hokes Bluff senior guard took over the game down the stretch to propel the Lady Eagles to a 41-40 championship victory over Southside last Friday (Jan. 23) at Gadsden State.

With the Lady Eagles (16-8) trailing 38-31 with 2:41 left in the contest, Evans scored seven of her teams’ final nine points, including the game-winning basket with 20.7 seconds remaining that clinched Hokes Bluff fourth straight county title.

Eight of Evans’ 12 points came during the final 1:40. She was named Tournament MVP.

“We got eight points to come back with two minutes to go, and we told each other that we could do it if we could dig down deep and turned it up on defense,” said Evans, who also had five assists, four rebounds, and three steals. “Luckily our shots fell when we drove an penetrated. It’s amazing feeling, and I’ll never forget it. Every team I’ve had every year, we’ve been like sisters. When you’re that as a team and you come out and win, it’s special. I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates.”

Hokes Bluff took its first lead of the game at 4:35 of the third quarter, when Sydney Ball’s three-pointer put the Lady Eagles ahead 26-24. 

Carley’s Ball’s basket a minute later made it 28-26 in favor of Hokes Bluff, but Lindsey Hindsman knocked down a trey with three second left to provide Southside with a 31-28 advantage.

The Lady Panthers (13-11) opened the fourth period with a 7-3 stretch highlighted by five points from Blakely Alfred. Tylynn Register’s three-pointer at 6:50 kept Hokes Bluff within striking distance.

Kelsey Patterson’s free throw made it 38-31with 2:41 remaining, but the Lady Eagles ratcheted up the defensive pressure and the Lady Panthers did not make another field goal the rest of the way.

Meanwhile at the other end of the court, Amanda Noah’s foul shot cut the deficit to six points, and Evans’ traditional three-point play with 1:40 left narrowed the gap to 38-35.

Southside gained a five-point cushion on the next possession when Kaylee Howell made both ends of a one-and-one situation, but that turned out to be the final points of the night for the Lady Panthers.

After Evans’s layup at 1:25 pulled the Lady Eagles within 40-37, Maddy Jenkins came up with the biggest stop of the night. With Southside trying to drain some time off the clock, Jenkins stole the ball and converted a layup to trim the SHS lead to one point with just over a minute remaining.

“I just knew that we were down and that we needed a turnover,” said Jenkins. “Hannah’s our only senior, and she needed something big, and I knew that’s what had to be done.”

“Maddy’s got that perfect attitude,” said Shields. “She just waits and waits and comes out there and does what she has to do.”

Hokes Bluff’s pressure defense soon forced another turnover. Evans let the clock run down to 25 seconds, drove the lane and scored to give the Lady Eagles the lead with 20.7 on the clock.

Southside then worked the ball in the paint and attempted a layup, which bounced off the glass. Noah grabbed the rebound with two seconds left. 

“Our girls just didn’t want to quit and just didn’t want to lose,” said Hokes Bluff head coach Jason Shields. “Southside played great and hit some big shots, bit it’s a game of momentum and we just happened to be on top at the end. One of our things is persevering, and that right there is why you do it every day. We’ve been fortunate in that we’ve had good leadership. Hannah’s our only senior, but all our younger ones have fit in real well.”

Hokes Bluff’s Logan Black sank three 3-point baskets on the way to 11 points, all of which came in the first half. 

“When you have a big game, Logan’s there,” said Shields. “She’s just a ninth grader, so hopefully she’ll keep improving.” 

Register added six points for the Lady Eagles, while Sydney Ball chipped in five. Noah and Carley Ball each had four rebounds.

“Basketball’s always a game of runs, and unfortunately, [Hokes Bluff] made a run in the last few seconds,” said Southside head coach Kim Nails. “We were holding them off, but they capitalized on a few things there at the end and finished the game. Our kids played hard, and my hats off to Hokes Bluff; they did a good job.

“It’s really a challenge when you come [into the tournament] as a second seed. You’re coming off a tough game the night before and you only have a day to get your legs up under you and prepare for a very veteran team.” 

Hindsman led Southside with nine points, followed by Alfred with eight and Emilee Coker with six.

Southside had the upper hand early on, starting off the game on an 11-3 run that was capped by Patterson’s basket at 2:27 of the first period. A three-pointer from Black and a pair of free throws by Register pulled the Lady Panthers within 11-3 after eight minutes.

After Alfred’s three-pointer stretched the lead to six points early in the second, Hokes Bluff gradually chipped away, with Carley Ball’s buzzer-beating jump shot slicing Southside’s advantage to 21-20 at halftime.

“[Late HBHS teacher and coach] Patrick Ball always said that everyone in the halls wants to win, but you want the people on your team that hates to lose,” said Shields. “It’s just a desire that you want every team you’ve ever coached to have, and you want your teams to pass on to each other. That’s [the players] you want to be surrounded by when you’re playing a competitive sport.” 

Joining Evans on the All-Tournament team were Black, Register and Carley Ball from Hokes Bluff; Alfred, Hindsman and Patterson from Southside; Sally Tinker and Maddie Osborne from Glencoe; Allie Jones and Emma Jones from Sardis; Abby Elrod from Gaston; and Kaitlyn Waldrop from West End. 

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