Evangel’s win streak continues

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

The Evangel Lightning boys basketball team has been on a roll during the holiday season and is currently in the midst of an eight-game winning streak.

Most recently, Evangel has won five consecutive games against Tuscaloosa Home Educators, Legacy/Essential Church School, Masters (CT), Bessemer Academy and Cornerstone Christian School.

It marks a stretch where the Lightning haven’t won just eight straight games, but also 10 of 11 as they seem to be rolling through the 2017-18 season with an overall record of 12-3.

In the first game of the five-game stretch starting on Dec. 14, Evangel picked up a 66-37 win over the Tuscaloosa Home Educators thanks to three double-figure scorers.

Samuel Graham led the way with 18 points thanks to 6-7 shooting from the field. Jabez Kirksey, who is the team’s leading scorer this season, added 15 points in the win, while Carson Hendon posted 11. The Lightning saw eight players score in the game.

In the next game against Legacy, Evangel’s defense stepped up and limited them to just 13 points in a dominant 59-13 win.

They held Legacy to just 7-percent shooting from the field, while the Lightning shot 42 percent.

Kirksey had another strong performance with 22 points thanks to 4-7 shooting from beyond the arc and 9-16 shooting from the field.

For the second game in a row, Evangel got three double-digit scorers as Kamden Smith added 12 points and Tyler Henderson posted 10.

Evangel kept up the defensive effort in the next game against Masters as they picked up a 54-18 win. It marked a two-game stretch where the Lightning had outscored their opponents 113-21.

The next two games against Bessemer Academy and Cornerstone marked much tougher opponents, which led to tightly contested games, but Evangel used their growing confidence to pull out wins in each.

Against Bessemer Academy, the Lightning shot 60 percent from the free throw line and 38 percent from the field compared to just 27 percent from the line and 36 percent from the field for Bessemer Academy.

Evangel found themselves down 12-0 in the first quarter, but mounted a strong comeback thanks again to a strong showing from Kirksey, who had a game-high 23 points.

Behind him, Graham added 11 points and Cooper Vowell had five. Both Weston Akin and Smith posted four points in the winning effort.

The final game of the current eight-game win streak was possibly the biggest as it pitted Evangel against Cornerstone.

It marked Lightning head coach Hagan Joiner’s first time back at his alma matter coaching against the team he used to play for, which he said was very emotional.

Evangel got off to another slow start and didn’t lead at all in the first half or the third quarter. The Lightning, however, were able to mount another comeback in the fourth quarter as they took their first lead with about 3 minutes left in the contest.

The Chargers outscored Evangel 17-8 in the first quarter, before the Lightning came back with a strong 16-10 second quarter to cut the deficit to 27-24 at the half.

Cornerstone extended the lead by one point in the final quarter thanks to a 10-9 advantage, but Evangel was able to end the game with a 17-9 fourth quarter to sneak out a 50-46 win.

Kirksey had just four points in the game, which certainly helped Cornerstone’s chances.

Akin, however, stepped up to post 11 points and nine rebounds to lead Evangel in the win. Smith also added 11 points, while eight total players scored in the game. Graham’s 12 rebounds and two steals were also key in the win.

Ethan Cohen led Cornerstone with 19 points, while Tanner Faulkner added 15 as those two combined for 34 of the Chargers’ 46 points.