COLUMBUS – Rutland was playing a normal Rutland game, pushing the limits against another team with a decided height advantage.
And Jenkins took advantage most of the night.
Then Ty’lik Evans went wild.
The 5-foot-7 senior scored 26 points in the final quarter and helped Rutland go from 17 points down to the lead twice, but Jenkins took advantage of a late turnover with clinching free throws for a heart-stopping 77-74 win over in a GHSA boys Class AAA semifinal at Columbus State.
Evans had two points through three quarters as the Hurricanes just couldn’t get going against the taller Warriors, who had a front court of 6-foot-8, 6-6 and 6-5.
“We account for that,” Rutland head coach Ron Christian said. “We probably count 30 points in the paint on any given night because we’re always the smaller team.”
It almost didn’t matter.
Evans’ five points early in the fourth pulled the Hurricanes to within nine only for the Warriors to go on an 8-0 run for a 63-46 lead at the 6:12 mark.
The margin was 16 when Evans remarkably scored Rutland’s next 18 points. While the Hurricanes needed more support on offense, they managed to disrupt the Warriors enough to slow them down. Three technical fouls, two on Jenkins’ Jamar Finklea and one on head coach Bakari Bryant were part of the fourth quarter fireworks. But the Hurricanes missed three free throws in the process.
Jenkins went scoreless for only 1:31, but by then, Rutland had taken the lead. That came when the Warriors botched an inbounds pass at halfcourt, and Trey Foster got the bucket and the free throw for a 71-70 lead with 1:13 left.
There was a debate about whether Jenkins guard Eric Johnson had gotten his fifth foul, but it was a teammate who was whistled for the foul.
Johnson made his second free throw seconds later for a 71-70 lead, and the Hurricanes were oddly called for a foul on the made free throw, so Salik Williams went to the line, only to miss both.
“We’re still trying to figure that out,” Christian said. “Our man stepped into him and boxed him out, and they said he threw an elbow. A regular box out.
“At the end, they get three back-to-back (free throws). They had six attempts back to back, and that hurt.”
Evans made one and then the Warriors turned it over. Evans found Timori Northcutt for a score and the lead again, 74-73 with 24.8 seconds left.
Trevion Lamar, a 6-5 sophomore, scored on the baseline with 15.3 seconds left for a 75-74 Jenkins lead.Jenkins called a timeout Christian didn’t think it had.
“Our book had them down as no timeouts,” he said. “The official scorekeeper said that they had one. I can’t debate that. We were told they were out.”
The Hurricanes brought the ball down only for Evans to lose the handle as he started to drive, the ball going directly to Lamar, who got it to Johnson, who was fouled with 3.9 seconds left.
He made both.
After the remarkable game, both head coaches hugged players from the opposition, and all players gathered at halfcourt for a postgame prayer.
The Hurricanes helped dig a hole by going 5-for-12 from the line in the first half, and survived some dry spells with a late second-quarter flurry to trail 32-28 at halftime.
“Our team plays up-tempo, so when people think that we play out of control, that’s how we play up-tempo. And (Saturday), Jenkins matched it.”
A 3 from Dallas Smith was Rutland’s only bucket for the first 4:41 of the third quarter, the Warriors taking a 47-31 lead in the process. Evans’ runner broke the spell, but Malik Benlevi’s 3 helped Jenkins finish the quarter strong and lead 55-41 after three.
And then came a fourth quarter that almost went down in semifinals history.
“We missed free throws in the first alf, we missed a few in the second. And then (Benlevi) was great for them. (Johnson) finished at the end of the game, and that was it.”