GARY | It’s called living up to the hype.
In an era when more and more teens are choosing to quit and fail outright over accepting challenges, fewer athletes actually reach their potential.
West Side freshman Dana Evans is that rare finisher. Ballyhooed and advance-scouted, the phenom so far is 100 percent burst, 0 percent bust.
Wednesday’s game with Bishop Noll was one of the first pages of an opening act that West Side fans are hoping is an exhilarating play.
Evans scored 17 of her game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter as the Times No. 2 Cougars overcame a three-point deficit to beat No. 7 Bishop Noll 65-58.
“The clock was ticking, and I knew I had to go hard,” Evans said. “We have no quit in us.”
Evans averaged 40 points per game as an eighth-grader but had to adjust to the high school game. The foul calls, the defense, the game management and the shot selection required many adjustments.
Evans now has 47 points in her last two games for the Cougars (4-1). Incumbent point guard Amari Ferguson sat out her second consecutive game for undisclosed reasons.
Evans had seven points in the first half and none in the third quarter. She delivered in a major way in the fourth with two NBA-range 3-pointers and a bevy of clutch drives to the basket.
Rod Fisher, in his 30th year at the helm of the Cougars, needs to see more.
“She can play. She’s still got a lot to learn,” Fisher said. “She made some ill-advised shots and ill-advised passes, and she needs to work on clock management. She’s not the total package, but she is still pretty good. I’ll give her that.”
The game was tied after each of the first two quarters, but Bishop Noll’s Naomi House, who had sat most of the first half, returned to boost the Warriors (5-2), who hadn’t played West Side this century.
Noll’s 39-36 lead awakened the Cougars. Evans yelled at teammates to play harder.
Fisher said last year’s team might not have overcome a fourth-quarter deficit so easily.
Brenda Pennington led the Warriors with 19 points, 12 of which came in the first half.
“We tried to key on House and Pennington and did an adequate job,” Fisher said. “We challenged a few shots and made other people handle the ball.”
West Side forward Lexus Fox routinely denied Noll any inside presence as she finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and six steals. Eight players scored for the Cougars.
“My teammates were the reason (I set a career high in points),” Evans said. “We didn’t fall apart, and the team is the reason. We were motivated by the crowd in the fourth quarter and got hyped to play hard.”