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McEvans cruises into 1A Championship with 80-69 win over H.W. Byers

The Warriors used an up-tempo attack to build an early lead and held on in the second half

JACKSON — Michael James was good, but McEvans’ high-paced transition game was better.

Fueled by a dominant second quarter, the Warriors (23-6) got past H.W. Byers and reigning Class 1A Mr. Basketball Michael James in the semifinal round of the MHSAA State Tournament at the Mississippi Coliseum Monday afternoon.

The Warriors will face either West Union or McAdams in the championship game, set for 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon.

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“We found some success in the transition game, which has been our calling card all year,” McEvans coach Eric Henry said. “That second quarter was the turning point in the game.”

Byers (23-3) fought their way to a 14-13 lead in the first quarter, but something clicked for the Warriors after that.

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McEvans was like a well-oiled machine designed to convert turnovers into transition baskets. Senior Jalen Smith got things going with a layup off a steal that sparked a 12-2 run.

When the dust settled on halftime, McEvans led it 39-32.

The Warriors held serve in the second half, outscoring Byers 20-18 in the third quarter and 20-18 in the fourth.

True to form, Edward Smith sealed the game on a transition layup with a minute to go following a steal by Brenton Hall.

Jalen Smith led McEvans with 24 points

Byers shot 43 percent from the field (26 of 60) but committed 24 turnovers. James led all scorers with 26 points.

“We knew he was a great player and proud of the job we did on defense to contain him," Henry said. "Our defense played well, and a lot of our offensive plan centers around quick buckets off of turnovers. That’s why you saw today.”