On that day, the Panthers held their annual senior night festivities before playing against red-hot WCAC rival DeMatha. Taylor’s mother had flown in from Ohio for the occasion, marking the first time she would see her son play in person since he transferred to Paul VI prior to last season. Before the game, Taylor’s Panther teammates made no secret of their desire to celebrate their senior leader by delivering a win.
But 90 minutes later, following a 54-52 loss to DeMatha that dropped the Panthers to fourth place in the WCAC, the attention had again been diverted from Taylor.
Fast forward to Tuesday’s WCAC championship which again pitted Paul VI against DeMatha. The outcome of the contest eight days earlier still resonated with the Panthers, who were again determined to send Taylor out on top. In a 56-37 win, the Panthers captured their second WCAC title in the last three years, with Taylor scoring 12 points and serving as spark for the Panthers during a critical second-quarter run.
“We messed up senior night for Evan, so I’m happy we were able to get the win for him and make his last year one to remember,” said Joshua Reaves, who benefited from a number of Taylor assists en route to 19 points and MVP honors.
“They beat us at home on senior night and with my mom there for the first time, I really wanted to get that win,” Taylor said. “We said we were going to get that back, and the guys said they wanted to win it for me, and that meant a lot.”
After averaging just 3.5 points in limited action as a junior last season, Paul VI Coach Glenn Farello inserted Taylor into the starting lineup to serve several roles, much like a Scottie Pippen-type for the Panthers.
The versatile 6-foot-4 swingman gave Paul VI another capable ball handler alongside point guard Kevin Dorsey. His long arms and sound footwork often resulted in him guarding the opponent’s best player, including the likes of O’Connell’s Melo Trimble, DeMatha’s Corey Henson and St. John’s James Palmer. And after the midseason transfer of fellow senior Quadree Smith to Potomac (Md.), Taylor stepped up his leadership, guiding his younger teammates with commands on the court and encouragement off it.
“Evan is our utility guy,” Farello said. “He does everything for us. He’s willing to lead and he’s our steady force out there.”
The Panthers will again depend on Taylor’s versatility Friday when they face WCAC rival O’Connell in the VISAA Division I semifinals at Virginia State. O’Connell swept the regular-season series against the Panthers and is looking to make a return trip to the VISAA title game.
To get there, the Knights will have to combat Taylor, whose ball distribution skills combined with a sound mid-range game have resulted in him averaging 8.5 points per game and garnering interest from Robert Morris, Miami (OH), Boston and Mercer.
NUMBER CRUNCH: 29
Points scored by Wakefield’s Re’Quan Hopson in Thursday’s 85-80 win against Broad Run in the Virginia 5A North region semifinals. The output marked a career-high for the Warriors senior and helped his team make a return trip Saturday’s region final against No. 2 Potomac and next week’s state semifinals.
— No. 6 Wise beat No. 9 Potomac (Md.) and top-ranked Eleanor Roosevelt downed Largo to win the Prince George’s boys’ and girls’ basketball titles, respectively.
— Edison’s fifth-ranked girls’ basketball team cruised to a 76-37 win against Freedom-South Riding on Thursday, setting up a fourth showdown against rival Mount Vernon in Saturday’s Virginia 5A North region final
— In other girls’ basketball action, West Springfield beat Centreville and Stonewall Jackson topped Madison to advance both teams to Saturday’s Virginia 6A North region final. In the second game, Stonewall’s Nicole Floyd (32 points) and Madison’s Kelly Koshuta (39) delivered epic performances for their teams with a spot in the state tournament on the line.
— Largo’s Abdulai Bundu has become a dunking and scoring machine for the Lions despite picking up the sport of basketball just a few years ago.
PHOTOS FROM LAST NIGHT
WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY
Virginia 6A North region boys’ basketball semifinals, 6 and 8 p.m. at Robinson
In the first game, No. 13 Herndon will look to dethrone defending region champ W.T. Woodson. Afterward, No. 17 Lake Braddock will take on red-hot South Lakes, led by junior guard Brandon Kamga.
The Maryland boys’ and girls’ playoffs also get underway tonight, providing a plethora of intriguing matchups for you to check out on a frigid evening.