Evangel boys, girls headed to Final Four

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

Both the Evangel boys and girls basketball teams are in the midst of their best basketball seasons in program history and are now on the verge of bringing home a state championship after each clinched a spot in the ACSC Final Four recently.

Thanks to wins in the Elite Eight, both teams will take to the floor at Samford University in the Final Four on Friday, Feb. 16, looking to clinch a spot in the championship game the next day.

For the Lightning’s boys team, it comes as a somewhat unexpected surprise as a redemption win allowed them to continue a successful season.

After losing to East Central HomeSchool out of Moody 72-60 and 72-57 in two of their final four games in the regular season, the Lightning turned around to redeem both of those double-digit losses with a dominant double-digit win in the Elite Eight.

Despite a slow start in the game that featured a one-point halftime deficit, Evangel left no doubt as they went on to outscore East Central 49-30 in the second half to run away with the 80-62 victory.

In a back-and-forth first half of the game, East Central led by as many as four points, while Evangel led by as many as four as well. That four-point advantage for the Lighting was late in the half, but the Patriots ended the second quarter on a 5-0 run to take a 32-31 lead into the half.

The back-and-forth battle continued early in the third quarter, but with the score tied at 37-37, Jabez Kirksey caught fire. The sophomore drained three 3-pointers as well as a jump shot, which sparked a 22-7 run to end the third quarter, which gave the Lightning a 59-44 lead heading to the final period.

Evangel was 11-13 from the field in the quarter, including 6-7 from behind the arc.

While East Central started the final quarter on a 10-4 run, Kirksey hit another 3-pointer to extend the lead back to 12 points, and Evangel ran away with it after that eventually extending its lead to 21 points, before winning by 18.

Behind Kirksey, Cooper Vowell had 16 points thanks to four 3-pointers in the game. Tyler Henderson and Cole Hendon also had double-digit performances with 14 and 13 points, respectively.

Evangel, the No. 6 seed, will now take on second-seeded Success Unlimited in the Final Four

The girls have used a continued effort throughout the season playing to an overall record of 17-2 as they look to be a strong favorite to win the ACSC State Championship.

With a matchup against the Tuscaloosa Home Educators, who sit at 13-13 overall, in the first round of the Final Four, Evangel seems to be a favorite to at least advance to the championship game.

The Warriors have gone 4-6 over their last 10 games, while the Lightning have now won 15 in a row, including 45-24 and 45-28 wins over the Warriors in the regular season.

The girls are looking for their second consecutive state championship after bringing home the title with an undefeated season last year.