Red Devils break into win column

Red Devil Dawson Crofts makes a nice move under Mountain View’s Hunter Meeks Friday in Evanston’s 48-43 loss to the Buffalos. Crofts had 11 points in the losing effort; the team opens conference play Thursday at Green River. (HERALD PHOTO/Don Cogger)

EVANSTON, LYMAN—Led by four players in double digits, the Evanston High School boys’ basketball team broke into the win column Saturday with a 59-52 win on the road at 3A Lyman.

The win snaps an 0-11 losing skid that began at the season-opening RE/MAX Invitational in Gillette in early December. EHS head coach Lex Cornia said it’s good to have the monkey off the team’s back.

“We knew that game was going to be ugly,” Cornia said. “I thought we made a lot of mistakes, but Lyman capitalized on mistakes, as well, and put us in situations we didn’t have great answers to.”

The Red Devils (1-11) opened the weekend with a 48-43 loss to 3A Mountain View (9-3) in front of a packed house at the EHS Gym Friday, the team’s first home game of the 2019-20 season. After trailing the Buffalos 22-18 at the break, Evanston battled back to take a 38-33 lead in the fourth, though they were unable to hold on for the win.

“That is a solid program built with kids who know how to win,” Cornia said of the Buffalos. “That’s a team that could potentially be playing on a Saturday night [at state].”

Red Devils 59, Lyman 52

After dropping a heartbreaker to Mountain View the night before, the Red Devils came into Saturday’s contest against Lyman with a renewed focus, knowing it was their final opportunity to notch a win before the start of conference play this week.

They did exactly that, led by 15 points from David Baxter, though Lyman (6-6) didn’t make it easy. The Eagles were also looking to make a statement, mounting a huge comeback in the second half before running out of steam, as Evanston held on for the 59-52 win.

“I think we knew going in that was going to be an ugly game,” Cornia said. “But I’ll also say that Lyman has good kids, and that is a tough home floor. The [Andrew] Houskeeper kid, the [Jett] Dickerson kid — just that whole crew can play, they do what they do really well.”

The game was back-and-forth for the first five minutes, though Evanston was able to build a 16-11 lead by the end of the first quarter behind six points by Burke Thomas. The Red Devils pushed their lead to eight 36-28 heading into the break.

The second half was a wild one, with the Eagles going on an offensive tear. Lyman outscored Evanston 20-9 in the third, including a 3-pointer by McCoy Smith in the final seconds to give Lyman a 48-45 lead after three.

“Lyman was forcing us to shoot from the outside, and we need to be more of an inside-out team,” Cornia said. “We shoot the ball so much better when it’s coming from the inside back out to us. I thought we were a little bit trigger-happy at times. That second half, we kind of shot Lyman back into the game with our decision-making down the stretch.”

With the score knotted at 52-52 with under a minute to play, Baxter drilled a clutch 3-pointer from the right corner to give the Red Devils a 55-52 lead. Lyman was unable to get a shot to fall as the clock ran down, and Evanston notched its first win of the season 59-52.

“It was a gutsy shot, and I’m glad he [Baxter] hit it,” Cornia said. “He shoots the ball well, and so did Burke Thomas in that game. But I hope our games don’t turn into 3-point shooting contests, because we do have a huge presence down low. I think our posts have proven that they will kick it back out.”

Baxter paced the Red Devils with 15 points, including the clutch 3-pointer in the game’s final minute to give Evanston the lead for good. Dawson Crofts, Burke Thomas and Mason Ellingford netted 14 points apiece, with Ellingford capping off a double-double, grabbing 11 rebounds.

The Red Devils shot 15 of 18 from the charity stripe for the contest for an impressive 83 percent.

“That was the game right there,” Cornia said of his team’s free throw shooting. “Mason stepped up and hit a lot of free throws, Dawson Crofts hit free throws down the stretch.”

Evanston only turned the ball over nine times in the contest, another statistic that’s been a problem in games past, according to Cornia.

“Turnovers have been the bane of our existence — we just give teams too many opportunities,” he said. “Hopefully that’s a takeaway for our guys — even with mistakes, we can play well enough to win or compete.”

Mountain View 48,

Red Devils 43

In the first of two games for Uinta County bragging rights, Evanston squared off against Mountain View Friday in the team’s first home game of the 2019-20 season.

The game was a defensive battle from the start, with the Buffalos riding the hot hand of sharp-shooter Braeden Walk to a 22-18 lead at the half. The Red Devils were able to regroup in the locker room and came out firing, outscoring Mountain View 20-11 to open a 38-33 lead with just under six minutes to play in the game.

But consecutive 3-pointers by the Buffalos’ Walk sparked a run of their own, closing out the game on a 15-5 stretch to escape with the 48-43 win.

“Mountain View is an excellent basketball team,” Cornia said. “We’ve seen the best this state has to offer this season, Mountain View would be a solid team in any classification, including ours.”

Mason Ellingford paced the Red Devils with 12 points, followed by 11 from Dawson Crofts. Burke Thomas netted eight points, while David Baxter finished with five. Casey Periman and Jagger Mitchell chipped in four points and three points, respectively.

Tasked with guarding Walk for most of the game, Periman did an excellent job guarding the playmaker, according to Cornia.

“Casey kept grinding the whole game, and we’re just very, very proud of his effort,” he said. “He has length, and he’s deceptively quick — he has explosiveness and speed you might not see at first glance. He just gets down and goes to work.”

Evanston will begin conference play this week, traveling to Green River Thursday to take on the 2-10 Wolves.

“Green River is similar to Lyman in that they have a lot of quick guards that can shoot,” he said. “They try to open you up, push the ball — and on their home floor, they do that very well. It’s always a dog fight on their floor.”

Cornia said despite the team’s record, the Red Devils are getting more comfortable with what they’re doing and have forged an identity over the last couple of games.

“I think we have a better idea of who we are and what we can accomplish heading into conference,” he said.

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