On a cold night, with a sparse crowd in the Evans stands for the first game back from break, Knights boys basketball coach Kevin Kenny told his players they would have to find their own motivation.
It wasn't going to come from the atmosphere inside the Knights gym.
Evans found the motivation it needed Tuesday to open the post-holiday region schedule with a 47-38 victory over Glenn Hills.
"If you're a player, you don't need a crowd or anything to get motivated," Kenny said. "We knew it was going to be a hard-fought, defensive game. It always is with Glenn Hills."
The Knights defense shined, especially late in fourth quarter. After the Spartans pulled within one with 6:29 left and upped the defensive pressure, Evans responded.
Knights senior Troy Griffith snatched a loose ball and called timeout before falling out of bounds. Guard Trevor Foreman stole a Spartans' inbounds pass out of a timeout and laid it in. A Tony Davis block shook the rubber padding on the backboard.
"We had to pick up our defense at the end of the game," Evans guard Austin Sandifer said. "They started picking up theirs and being more aggressive. So we had to pick up ours."
Sandifer led all scorers with 10 points. He produced the game's top play, a 3-pointer launched from the top of the key at the opposite end of the floor that rattled in at the buzzer to end the first quarter.
Save for that play, the offensive highlights were few, though the Knights took advantage of several fast break opportunities during the second half.
The game was a letdown of sorts for the Spartans. Coach Travis McRae's team last week won a holiday tournament in Columbia, S.C., but could not sustain that momentum on the road. No Glenn Hills player reached double digits, and the Spartans were done in by a four-point third quarter.
McRae said his team lacked focus. He referenced missed layups and free throws during the fourth quarter.
The loss was the Spartans' second in Region 3-AAAA. Glenn Hills' schedule after the break does not get easier with a road game Saturday at Josey.
But McRae can see light ahead.
"In the end, it's just one game," he said. "They got to come back to our place. We got 12 more region games. One thing about basketball, you got to get over it quick, because the next game's coming."
Reach Stephen Fastenau at (706) 863-6165, ext. 116 or firstname.lastname@example.org.