Kerry Blackshear finished with 17 points and 9 rebounds and Jacarl Owens added 10 points and 8 rebounds to lead host Evans to a 67-50 win over Dr. Phillips in the Class 8A boys basketball region semifinal.
Blackshear and Owens were just two of many big contributors Tuesday for the Trojans in front of an energized home crowd that included UCF head coach Donnie Jones.
Evans moves on to face Jacksonville Sandalwood on the road Saturday at 7 p.m. for a chance to return to the state semifinals.
While big plays were being made on both ends of the floor in the opening half Tuesday, Evans took control of a 24-all game in the second quarter by going on a 13-3 run over the final three minutes to pull away from the Panthers for good.
It was an all-around team effort as Blackshear, Owens, Malik Smith and Deion James each made buckets from the field and helped to make it difficult for Dr. Phillips to answer before intermission.
“Everybody that plays is going to have to step up at some point in time to make a play,” Evans coach Chucky Atkins said afterwards. “Once we get a lead it’s up to us to make some stops, and what you saw tonight was a group of determined guys who were locked in together.”
David Stephen drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer before halftime for Dr. Phillips to cut the Trojans lead to 37-27, but the magical season for the inexperienced Panthers was undoubtedly in jeopardy.
After Evans ballooned its lead to 46-30 in the third quarter Dr. Phillips pieced together one final run (9-0) to get within 46-39 with a minute to spare in the period. The Panthers got no closer as Courtney Williamson knocked down two free throws and senior Benly Olizia nailed a 3-pointer from the corner as time expired.
“When we needed to make a play somebody stepped up and made a play, whether it was a jump shot, a key rebound, a layup on this end,” Atkins said. “Regardless of what it was, when we needed it somebody stepped up and did it.”
Williamson scored 11 for Evans while James, Smith and Olizia each added 7 points in the win.
Stephen connected on four 3-pointers and finished with 18 for Dr. Phillips while Jonathan Laurent finished with 16. Chaundee Brown was held to 9 points.
After moving up a class over the summer, Evans is looking to return to the state title game after falling short of the Class 7A championship a year ago.
“I believe that when my team is locked in and they’re together and they’re playing for each other, that we’re one of the best teams in the state regardless of what our classification is,” Atkins said. “We want to get back to where we were last year to see if we can right the situation. Our guys have been there, they’re veterans at this and that counts a lot.”