APEX — Apex rallied from 15 points down to defeat Millbrook 59-58 in the second round of the state 4A basketball playoffs. The Cougars will play at Broughton in the third round on Friday.
“In the first quarter, I thought our offense was pretty good, but we were kind of trading buckets,” said Apex coach David Neal. “In the second quarter, we were just totally out of sync offensively.”
By the time the first half was over, Millbrook had what appeared to be an insurmountable 31-16 lead. Despite the deficit, Apex guard T.J. Evans said he was confident that he and his team would pull out the victory.
“At halftime, we were down a little it,” Evans said, “but I had this feeling that we were going to end up pulling it together.”
Evans would be a big part of that come back, as would reserve guard Chris Cotton.
Evans hit a 3-pointer a few moments into the third quarter, Apex’s first points since late in the first quarter. Cotton scored five quick points after being inserted midway in the third quarter, helping Apex trim Millbrook’s lead to 43-42 heading into the fourth quarter.
Cotton’s play impressed Millbrook coach Scott McInnes.
“Credit that kid,” McInnes said. “He didn’t even play in the first half.”
It would be in the fourth quarter were Evans truly asserted himself. The junior scored 11 of his game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter, including a critical four-point play and a fadeaway jumper to give Apex a 57-52 win with just over two minutes remaining.
“He was lights out. Sometimes I think we take his scoring for granted,” Neal said. “The shots he hit tonight were a really high level of difficulty. When he gets to feeling like that, it’s fun to watch.”
Millbrook, however, wouldn’t go away easily. They scored six quick points to take a 58-57 lead on Brandon Goldsmith’s layup with under a minute to go. The lead didn’t last long, however, as Apex’s Jon Jones scored the winning layup on the very next possession.
“We took a lead and then gave up some wide-open layup under the rim,” McInnes said. “It’s the same stuff we’ve been talking about all year.”
Jones finished with 10 points for Apex. Robert Brown led Millbrook with 17 points.
When asked about his fourth quarter performance, Evans said his poise was a big reason why he played so well down the stretch.
“Last year, if I didn’t score that much in the first half, I would have been down on myself,” he said. “But I just kept my head in the game, I wasn’t trying to force any thing. I just let the game come to me.”