EVANS, Ga. - Trailing the Evans Knights 27-9 at the start of the second quarter, a chance at a comeback seemed slim. But the Alcovy Tigers made the game close in the second half before falling in a tight match.
The Knights eventually emerged victorious 90-86 in a game where two very different styles of play clashed in an absolute grinder of a match.
For the Tigers, it was reliance on the inside presence and ability to get to the basket that ultimately had the most success, while the Knights relied heavily on their outside shooting and struggled inside.
The Knights jumped out to a quick double-digit lead as they hit six 3-pointers in the first quarter alone. With their hot shooting from distance and the Tigers' struggles to get anything to fall, it looked as if this game could be over before it really got started.
Tigers' head coach Mack Hardwick did not share that belief. He said he knew the hot shooting would eventually subside and that his guys would find ways to get to the basket effectively.
"To be honest, I wasn't swayed whatsoever because they shot amazingly from the three-point line, and I knew for a fact that at some point in time, they would start missing," Hardwick said, "Once we sped them up and took their legs away, we chipped away. We were the better team; we started getting high-percentage shots once we forced turnovers."
Two guys who did an excellent job of finishing around the rim and getting in position around the basket for high-percentage shots were leading scorer Oliver Gerard, who finished with 34 points, and Dylan Driver, who finished with 23 points.
Both Gerard and Driver were absolute forces in the paint, and Hardwick said he was proud of their efforts and the whole team's ability to drive and get easy shots in the lane.
"They can't stop him(Gerard), of course, Oliver had 34 points because not a single player on that team can guard him and truth be told not too many players on that team were able to guard my boys, especially on the inside," the Tigers coach said. "They cannot stop those two guys (Driver and Gerard). They do not have a player that is equivalent to those two guys in the paint."
As mentioned, it was two different styles of basketball that saw the Knights eke out this close victory at home.
Hardwick mentioned that he could tell his players were frustrated with the officiating and that he would stand behind his players.
Regardless of this outcome, the Tigers will see the Knights again, and Hardwick seemed confident that his guys would get the win when these two teams meet the next time.
"I told my boys we're looking to blow them out the next time," Hardwick said. "With all due respect, we want to send a statement to let them know that we've arrived."
The Tigers will have to shift their focus away from Evans for now, with the Heritage Patriots next on their schedule.
The Tigers will go for the season sweep of the Patriots on the road on Friday, Jan. 17.