Time and again in the fourth period, Evans senior Allysha McFarland stepped to the line and knocked down free throws.
She also scored the team’s only field goal in the period as the Lady Knights held on to beat the Bradwell Institute Lady Tigers 62-57 in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs.
It was the Evans girls first trip to the state tournament since before 1990. They will continue the journey Friday, traveling to Hardaway, which beat Whitewater 39-34 in overtime.
Evans coach Ryan Morningstar didn’t care what the final margin of victory was, just that there was one.
“A win’s a win at this point and our name is moving on in the brackets and these girls deserve it for everything they’ve done,” said Morningstar. “A lot of people have said you’ve had a good season, I said no, we’re still playing.”
While McFarland led the way in the final period, it was the team’s leading scorer Jasmine Stone who helped the Lady Knights go up by 18 points in the first half, scoring 15 of her game-high 25 points on a variety of shots.
The Lady Knights (19-8) led 36-23 at halftime, but the Lady Tigers (15-13) refused to go away. Each time they would get close, however, Evans had a momentum stopper. After an 11-3 run in the third period brought the Lady Tigers within 39-34, Evans’ Autumn Johnson buried a 3-pointer and McFarland hit a free throw to end the third up 43-34.
Ellysa Melton (10 points) blocked an almost-sure layup with 3:19 to play that would have cut the Lady Knights’ lead to one point, then McFarland hit free throws to stretch the lead back to five.
With 2:25 to go leading 55-50, the Lady Knights grabbed four offensive rebounds in one series before McFarland was fouled and sank a pair of free throws to extend the lead to seven.
After making all three free-throw attempts in the first half, Evans converted 21 of 28 chances in the second half.
Jakaria Fleming led Bradwell with 16 points.