With his team down a point in the final minute against its chief rival, Harrison coach Gary Chiarella turned to his freshman guard to orchestrate the most important play of the season. It was intended for Evans to receive a handoff from Nick Esposito at the top of the key and find junior Coby Lefkowitz rolling to the basket. But Evans acted decisively at the very moment his youth would suggest the opposite.
“I saw the man on me and he wasn’t really as fast as I am,” Evans said. “So I just took it.”
Evans’ aggressive drive ended with a left-handed layup that put the Huskies up a point with 16.1 seconds remaining. They went on to stun visiting Rye 41-38 just 11 days after they lost by 13 to the same opponent on the road.
Evans finished with 13 points, but none more important than those last two.
“I just went over and gave him a big hug,” said Lefkowitz, who hit two insurance free throws after Rye’s Max Twyman missed a 3-pointer. “I remember when I played as a freshman. Your nerves are going. For him to make that shot was huge for us.”
It capped a tumultuous second half that saw each team endure a crippling drought.
Harrison (7-6) earned a 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter after holding Rye (8-6) to one point in the third. The Garnets responded with a 10-0 run to tie the game with 1:37 left and regained the lead 16 seconds later on a pair of free throws by sophomore Andrew Livingston.
Twyman led Rye with 17 points and 11 rebounds, but the team allowed the Huskies 23 offensive rebounds, including eight in the first quarter. Rye also lost a costly turnover near halfcourt with 26.5 to play and up a point. The Garnets believed the ball had rolled out of bounds off a Harrison defender, but the officials disagreed.
“That’s the worst game we’ve played all year,” Rye coach John Aguilar said. “It was the worst offensive rhythm we’ve had. Credit them for good defense. They doubled Max every time.”
The Garnets were also forced to play the second half without Mike D’Antoni, who injured his hip in the second quarter. They lost spacing without his outside shooting, allowing Harrison to erase the memory of a woeful first half in which it shot 6 for 36 from the field.
“They didn’t fall in. They’re not going to fall every game,” said Lefkowitz, who had 17 points and 14 rebounds. “But, in the end, we got the three-point victory. That was great.”