APEX — The Cougars scored the last 15 points of the game and senior T.J. Evans capped the furious rally with a follow shot with just 5.6 seconds to play, lifting Apex to a 59-58 win over Panther Creek on Friday night.
The game was a battle for first place in the SWAC. With three games to play, Apex is 10-1 in the conference with two wins over the second-place Catamounts, who are 9-2 in conference play.
Evans, the conference player of the year the past two years, was clutch in the closing seconds. He hit two 3-pointers in the last minute and a half to cut the Catamounts’ lead to 58-56.
Another Cougars senior, Majid Raji, also grabbed a couple of rebounds down the stretch and intercepted a pass with 36 seconds to play. He was fouled with 7.6 seconds left and hit one free throw, but missed the next two. Evans, though, was there after the second miss to bank in the short jumper.
“I’m so happy for Majid because he’s stepped in for our big man, Jon Jones, who is sick and is out for the year. He’s really stepped up and taken this opportunity,” Apex coach David Neal said. “And it was so appropriate for T.J. to hit that last shot. He was struggling with his shot during the game, but then scored 12 in the final period.”
Evans scored 20 for Apex, followed by Ian Boyd with 17 and T.J. Wells with 11.
“It would have been tough coming back in the locker room after a loss, but Panther Creek outplayed us up until the last five minutes,” Neal said. “I’m surprised Panther Creek threw the ball away like they did because they’re so gifted offensively and play so smartly. We just somehow did what we had to do.”
Apex still had to sweat out a half-court shot by Catamounts sophomore Juan Munoz, whose shot hit the rim. Munoz scored 14 and teammate Gaquez Hudson added 13. Malachi Paige notched 10.
“I give Apex a ton of credit for how they handled the last four minutes,” Panther Creek coach L.J. Hepp said. “It was tough for us. Our kids are hurting. As coaches, we wish we could have done more to help them.”