When Grovetown girls basketball coach Jaime Echols put together his non-region schedule in the offseason, he planned for his team to play some difficult opponents.
The toughest one so far? The one the Lady Warriors faced in the Monterrey Christmas Tournament semifinals Friday at Evans High School.
Grovetown struggled against unbeaten Franklin County’s full-court press, falling 43-19. The Lady Lions advanced to play Cross Creek in the girls championship at 7 tonight, while Fayette County will play Evans for the boys championship at 8:30 p.m.
The Knights won in thrilling fashion for the second night in a row. After opening the tournament with a 50-48 win over Lake Nona, Evans beat Strom Thurmond, 42-40, on a Will Caudill tip-in at the buzzer.
With the victory, the Knights (8-4) extended their winning streak to five, three of their past four wins coming by a total of five points. Evans trailed the Rebels, 19-10, in the second quarter, but it bounced back for a 26-22 halftime lead.
Strom Thurmond re-took the lead late in the third, the game remaining tight until the end. Evans got the ball with 11 seconds remaining. R.J. King brought the ball down the court, passed inside to Caudill, who missed his left-handed shot. Dylan Cardwell crashed in, got the board, but also missed.
As Cardwell’s shot fell off the rim, Caudill leaped up for the game-winning tip.
Cameron Caberrus led Evans with 19 points, while Jamavious Jones paced the Rebels with 15.
Earlier in the day, Franklin County improved to 12-0 with its victory over Grovetown.
“With our schedule, we’ve played a lot of tough teams,” Echols said. “We knew this was probably going to be the toughest one. It’s the first team we’ve played that’s given us a tremendous amount of ball pressure and pressed us the whole game, which is good for us.”
Franklin County jumped out to an early lead, using a big second quarter for some separation. Asia Jones scored six of her game-high 17 points in the second as the Lady Lions roared into intermission up 23-14.
Franklin County then outscored Grovetown, 20-5, in the second half to lock up the victory. Mya Jones finished with 10 points for the Lady Lions.
“Defensively, we played well,” Echols said. “We were able to stay in that zone the entire game and contain their three-point shooters. Offensively, we missed a ton of layups and forced some things. Of course, they had a lot to do with that.”
Ayana Collins led Grovetown with 11 points. The Lady Warriors, who fell to 8-6 overall, play Statesboro at 4 p.m. today. Grovetown returns to action Jan. 5, when it kicks off a three-game road swing at Heritage.