Sluggish start dooms Knights

Chris Thelen/Staff
Evans' Trey Henderson (left) drives to the hoop with pressure from Bainbridge's Melzie Johnson during Friday's state playoff game. The Knights trailed early and were eliminated.

Trey Henderson watched the Evans student section file in Friday and said, 'Y'all are early. What time's the game start?"

 

The Knights point guard was stretched out across a group of chairs 45 minutes prior to its first-round Class AAAA state playoff game with Bainbridge. After speaking with the students, he tried to return to his nap.

Henderson's teammates must have caught on.

The Knights came out flat in the first half and were bounced, 83-65, by a Bearcats team that spent five hours on a bus before reaching Evans.

Evans senior Jonathan Nicely, who scored 32 points to end his high school career, said he felt some of his teammates weren't prepared.

"We should have come out with a little more fire," he said. "We had some trouble back in the locker room -- people playing around."

The Bearcats appeared to have pumped extra oxygen into their bus. Bainbridge coach Rickey McCullough's team never trailed and led by 17 at the half.

McCullough knows what it's like to underestimate a team coming off a long road trip. His team did when it was throttled during a home Christmas tournament. And so he felt the Knights may have been a little too comfortable Friday.

"I think they took us a little lightly," McCullough said. "Everybody I talked to told us how good they were."

Knights coach Kevin Kenny, too, thought his team would benefit from the Bearcats' lengthy trip. When the first quarter ended, it was clear that wasn't the case.

Nicely put on a show during his final game, including 14 third-quarter points to give the Knights brief hope.

But Kenny's team never drew within 12 in the second half as the Bearcats continued to hit shots.

"We heard they liked to push it," said Henderson, a senior. "We didn't know they were going to shoot the ball like that."

Kenny said his team did a poor job of getting back on defense, even after warning his players the Bearcats would run.

The lack of transition defense hurt the Knights during their third-quarter comeback attempt, when they bested their entire first-half output but managed to cut into the Bearcats' lead by only five.

"We didn't do a good job defensively coming out," Kenny said.

The Knights, it appeared, were caught napping.

Reach Stephen Fastenau at (706) 868-6165, ext. 114 or stephen.fastenau@augustachronicle.com.

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