Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011 | 10:16 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer preview this weekend's state basketball tournament. They disagree on whether Eldorado or Sierra Vista will win the play-in game, but see the same outcome regardless.
So, he borrowed a pair of pink high-tops from teammate Michael Thompson, then borrowed a play designed for Thompson in saving the season for his team.
Canyon Springs trailed Sierra Vista by two points with 12 seconds remaining when a play was called to give Thompson — the Canyon Springs senior who will play next year at Boise State — a chance to win or tie the game.
But when Sierra Vista denied Thompson the ball, the senior Evans didn’t hesitate in driving the basket and making the game-tying shot to force overtime. In overtime, Canyon Springs’ speed and athleticism finally took over, leading to a five-point advantage and eventually a 70-68 victory to advance to Friday’s state title game.
Evans, and his borrowed size 10.5 pink shoes, saved the day — again. Last week in the Sunrise Regional semifinals, Evans hit a game-winning shot against Foothill at the buzzer to help extend the Pioneers’ season.
“That is why he is on the floor quite a bit,” Canyon Springs coach Daryl Brahnam. “He comes up big in big games. He doesn’t stop. He doesn’t stop.”
The 5-foot-11 Evans, who finished with six points and four minutes, had no reservations about having the ball in his hands with the game on the line — even if he was the second option.
“We knew they would go hard at Mike, because our first option is to always go to Mike,” Evans said. “But I was wide open and my mentality is to go to the basket and get my team a win. Or, in this case, get into overtime.”
In overtime, Canyon Springs received five straight points from senior post player Jared Brandon in pulling away. His 3-point play with less than two minutes to play gave the Pioneers the lead for good, helping them survive to play another day after trailing by double digits in the first half.
Canyon Springs only scored four points in the first quarter in falling into an early hole. Sierra Vista senior guard Viko Noma’aea was virtually unstoppable all night, hitting a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the first half for a 31-21 Sierra Vista halftime lead.
Canyon Springs, which lost in last year’s state finals and has been expected all year to return to the title game, has made a habit of starting slow. This time, it nearly cost the Pioneers their season.
“We’ve been down a few games this year by double digits and were able to pull it out” Brahnam said. “The kids, they don’t panic. They know what they have to get done. They understand what they need to do to crawl out of the hole. We just preach to them that you can’t get in that big of a hole, especially tomorrow, no matter who we play.”
Canyon Springs scored 10 straight points to open the second half. A majority of its points in the second half came from the free throw line, with Canyon Springs players consistently driving the ball the basket and being fouled.
They made 33-of-48 attempts for the game, including 9-of-13 from Thompson in scoring a team-high 21 points. Brandon was a perfect 15-of-15 from the line in finishing with 19 points.
“They are a good team. They have all kinds of athleticism,” Sierra Vista coach Kent Johnson said. “They have all kinds of talent. It is a tough team to keep down.”
Noma'aea’s game-high 24 points included four 3-pointers, while his younger brother, Corey Noma'aea, connected on a pair of his own 3-pointers during Sierra Vista’s first-half outburst. The Mountain Lions gave Canyon Springs everything it could handle — just not enough.
“Viko turned it up in the second half,” Evans said. “Just like us, he wanted his team to win. As the leader of his team, he had to turn it up and step it up."
“We are more of a third- and fourth-quarter team,” Evans continued. “But like coach Brahnam said, that is not good. We have to step it up tomorrow (at the beginning of the game).”
Canyon Springs will face Bishop Manogue in the state championship game at 8 p.m.