Westside's boys basketball players stared at the ground and shuffled their feet leaving the locker room after their 49-34 loss to Evans on Tuesday night.
An empty gym awaited them. All but two fans had left in the more than 15 minutes coach Marvin Fields had spent addressing his team. The message: forget about this one; there will be better days.
Playing to improve seeding for the upcoming Region 3-AAAA tournament, Westside scored only 10 points in the second half of its second consecutive defeat. The Patriots allowed 13 consecutive points after tying the game midway through the third quarter and trailed by double digits for the final 10 minutes.
"We ran out of gas down the stretch, but Evans was a little hungrier than us," Fields said. "We play again (today, against Butler), so we can't mope over this one. They got their heads down, but I think we'll pick it up.
"There's still a long way to go. This one is over."
Most are happy to move on to the next game. Evans scored its fewest points since a 51-46 loss to Josey two months ago, but made its defense the difference. Senior Tony Davis scored 21 points to lead all scorers, and Keenan Mason came off the bench to add nine, including five in a row during a critical third-quarter stretch.
"Offensively, it was sloppy both ways, but defensively we just did a great job in the second half," Evans coach Kevin Kenny said. "We are a very good defensive team when we set our mind to it. High school kids are going to have turnovers -- that's part of basketball -- but defense should be constant every night."
Kenny said the Knights improved in two areas over the final two quarters: getting back to prevent transition baskets and denying passes in the halfcourt. They allowed only two field goals (Allen Elmore's layup and Dominique Thomas' 3-pointer) and five free throws in the second half.
Evans entered the game 13-5 in the region, tied with Glenn Hills and Josey. With only a region game against Hephzibah remaining, the Knights appear safe to grab either the second or third seed after Glenn Hills topped Josey 47-37. The second and third seeds are more lucrative, because teams in those spots avoid a potential meeting with top seed and region unbeaten Richmond Academy until the championship game.
The loss likely locked Westside into the fifth seed, meaning it will need to upset a higher seed to earn a state playoff berth. The region tournament is next week at Richmond Academy.
Elmore, limited with a thigh bruise, led the Patriots with 10 points, three days after not scoring in his team's 66-62 loss to Richmond Academy because of the injury.
The Patriots have given Richmond Academy their two toughest games of the season, but have now lost to four other teams in the region.
"We have played better," Fields said. "We've played better. It takes a maximum effort for us (to win) on any given night. That's what it's going to take."