James Evans-McQuay helps Williamsport boys defeat Wyalusing
The COVID-19 pandemic kept James Evans-McQuay from playing inside last summer.
So, he took his game outside.
The Williamsport senior played outside nearly every day. If there was a season, he would be ready. And if there was not a season, he would still be ready.
Inside again this winter, Evans-McQuay has enjoyed his best scholastic season, helping a young team go 9-4 and put itself in position to host a District 2-4 Class 6A semifinal. All that work Evans-McQuay put in again came shining through Friday night as he scored 23 points in three quarters and helped Williamsport defeat Wyalusing, 69-39, at the Williamsport Middle School.
“I have a buddy who is a little older and works out with me all the time, so we just stayed outside and worked all summer,” Evans-McQuay said. “I had my mind set that we were going to have a season and even if we didn’t, I still wanted to get ready for college and things like that. I didn’t want to be caught off guard.”
Prepared and experienced, Evans-McQuay is averaging a team-best 16 points per game and has become one of the district’s best finishers around the rim. Last night he made 10 of 17 shots. He was especially outstanding in the third quarter when he made five consecutive shots and scored 11 points as Williamsport opened a 30-point lead and imposed the mercy rule.
Evans-McQuay started and finished strong, producing 12 of Williamsport’s first 21 points in a game the Millionaires never trailed. He also made a defensive impact, making three steals and drained a 3-pointer.
“My teammates are starting to trust me a little bit more so whenever I get the space or in a spot where they know I can score from they open up a little bit and they wait and make sure I can kick it out,” Evans-McQuay said. “It’s just more of a confidence thing.”
“James has played well for us all season but is really playing more under control and he doesn’t need to take as many shots to get his points now. He’s a lot more efficient and he’s doing a good job on the defensive side of the ball,” Williamsport coach Allen Taylor said. “He has an uncanny ability to come up with steals, shooting gaps and jumping at the right time. He’s been coming up with quite a few steals and he’s been one of the steady players all season long.”
Williamsport started slow against District 4 Class AA title contender, but Evans-McQuay helped it take the early lead and Kenan Brown allowed the Millionaires start breaking things open. The Millionaires missed several first-quarter layups they can ill-afford to miss come playoffs, but Brown helped them settle in during the second quarter and the junior point guard showed how dangerous he can be.
Brown finished with 11 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists. Most of that damage was inflicted during the 21-5 second-quarter run as he scored eight points, hit two 3-pointers, dealt two assists, pulled down four rebounds and added three steals.
“Kenan can definitely be a game-changer when he wants to. He has the ability to go in there and jump and rebound with the trees, he’s very physical and he welcomes contact and plays through contact,” Taylor said. “He has very active hands and he’s very deceptive because you look at this size and you don’t think he can run down balls or jump and pick off a pass that you try and throw over him.”
Nayim Connelly-Ali shares a similar skill set and was outstanding off the bench. A tremendous athlete, Connelly-Ali made things happen on both ends, provided a third-quarter jolt and produced six points, three rebounds, three steals, three assists and two blocks.
Able to run the court and defend any possession, Connelly-Ali played a pivotal role in squashing any Wyalusing (10-6) comeback hopes in the third quarter. He also helped Williamsport force nine turnovers in the middle quarters which helped fuel the transition game.
“He’s a real big energy guy. He’s really close with everybody. Once he comes out everybody gets hyped,” Evans-McQuay said. “He’s a high-flier. He jumps high, so that gets us excited when he gets a steal or a block or gets on the glass. That gets everyone going.”
Williamsport had it going inside and outside over the final three quarters, making 24 of its 41 shots. The Millionaires were especially strong on the perimeter knocking down 6 of 10 3-pointers. Just as important those shots were not forced and were set up well.
Brown hit two second-quarter 3-pointers, Xavier Taylor added two more and Williamsport was perfect from behind the arc in the second half. Ten players scored and the Millionaires built some momentum heading into a challenging game tonight against Susquehanna Township.
“We shot the ball well. That’s something we’re going to have to continue to do because a lot of times teams want to pack it in or go some type of zone to try to force us to shoot the ball. I want them to welcome that challenge but be shot ready and that’s something we’ve struggled with,” Taylor said. “I want these guys to start hunting shots. They’ve been shooting the ball hoping they make it instead of thinking I just have to get open. We have to change their mindset a little bit.”
Grayson Cobb 2 0-0 5, Isaiah Way 5 1-2 12, Mitchell Burke 2 0-0 4, Kashawn Cameron 1 0-0 2, Abram Bennett 3 0-0 7, Blake Morningstar 3 3-4 9. Totals 16 4-6 39.
James Evans-McQuay 10 2-2 23, Nassir Jones 3 1-1 7, Kenan Brown 4 0-0 11, Al-Kabeer Jason 2 0-0 4, Tyler Fausnaught 1 0-0 2, Ry’meer Brown 3 0-0 6, Xavier Taylor 3 0-0 6, JJ Beagle 0 0-0 0, Zyriece Walker 1 0-0 2, Nayim Connelly-Ali 3 0-0 6, Caleb Fausnaught 1 0-0 2. Totals 30 3-5 69.
Wyalusing 9 5 12 13–39
Williamsport 13 21 19 16–69
3-point goals: Wyalusing 3 (Cobb, Way, Morningstar); Williamsport 6 (Brown 3, Taylor 2, Evans-McQuay).
Records: WAHS (9-4), Wyalusing (10-6).