“It wasn’t exactly according to a plan,” said Evans, who finished with eight points. “It was more like whoever was open [should shoot.] Luckily, I just happened to find a good shot.”
Evans’s heroics salvaged a victory Eleanor Roosevelt (3-0) seemed intent on giving away. In the second half, the Raiders – who lost the Maryland 4A title game to Magruder last season – led by as many as seven and nearly closed it out early, going up 56-52 with 1 minute 15 seconds left on a pair of free throws by Holy Cross-bound senior forward Malachi Alexander (team-high 14 points).
Then the home team gave it all back and more with three consecutive turnovers against DuVal’s pressure defense. The Tigers (0-2) flipped those miscues into three easy baskets in a 34-second span, taking the lead on sophomore Edward Polite’s tip-in with seven seconds remaining.
That set the stage for Evans, who earned a reputation as one of the county’s top outside shooters in making a team-best 58 three-pointers a year ago. The guard only knocked down two on Tuesday, both in similar desperation situations as he also beat the halftime buzzer with a deep turnaround jumper.
When Evans nailed the game-winning shot, members of the student section immediately rushed the court and surrounded him. The revelry was momentarily postponed when the referees determined there was still time on the clock, but once the fans were sent back to the bleachers, DuVal’s last-ditch heave banged around in the rafters.
“I’m proud of the guys because nobody panics,” said O’Connell, whose team knocked off McNamara of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference in a public-private matchup over the weekend. “We completely folded there for like three possessions, but I think everyone thought we were going to win” before Evans’s shot.
It was the second straight disappointing result to start the season for DuVal under first-year Coach Lafayette Dublin, a former player at the Lanham school who replaced longtime coach Artie Walker.
The Tigers lost to No. 12 C.H. Flowers, 69-65, in overtime last week before battling the Raiders to the final possession on Tuesday behind a game-high 20 points from senior Charles Ekeanyanwu.
“We’ll be fine,” Dublin said. “It can only get better. It can’t really get any worse when you lose a ball game like that. … Both games we had opportunities to win. We’ve just got to learn to close them out.”