Evan John missed a game and a quarter with an ankle injury. For the Sweet Home High School boys basketball team, that seemed like an eternity.
The Panthers’ standout guard returned in fine fashion on Saturday afternoon as Sweet Home brushed off the snow and posted a 67-58 non-league over visiting Lancaster.
“The big thing for us was having Evan John back on the floor,” Panthers coach Brandon Woods said. “When Evan’s back on the floor, the guys just have a confidence to them. He makes us go; he’s a four-year guy, when he’s on the floor, we’re so much better. Basketball is a player’s game and when you have guys like Evan John, that makes you look like the best coach in the world at times.”
John, the Panthers’ leading scorer with 17 points per game, injured his ankle in the fourth quarter of a Jan. 17 win over Hamburg. That forced him to sit for a Jan. 22 game against rival Amherst, who beat the shorthanded Panthers, 62-49.
“Last game, I know we took a loss but I had to sit out because that’s what was best for the team,” John said. “I had to stay prepared for the rest of the season. It was tough, I really wanted to be out there with my brothers but I had to make the smart decision for the future.”
John, a fourth-year varsity starter, matched his average with 17 points and added 4 assists for Sweet Home (8-6), who won for the seventh time in its last nine games. Daequan Hill added 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 steals. Matthew Nix added 10 points in the win.
“Everybody contributed,” John said. “We all work as one team and that’s what I love about this team. Right now, I feel like we’re finding our rhythm as a team and I think we’re going to do some things.”
Trevor Reformat led Lancaster with 14 points, while Gianluca Fulciniti added 12 points. Jakob Jerebko scored 11 and Jon Kisker 10 for the Legends (5-9). After a 20-20 first quarter, Lancaster had trouble getting shots to fall the rest of the way – possibly a result of the four-day break from basketball caused by the snowstorm.
“We haven’t practiced since Monday,” Lancaster coach John Otto said. “I just told the kids not to dwell on this too much. It’s a non-league game, it’s good to get our legs back a little bit and now we get ready for a league game on Monday (at home against Williamsville North).”
For both teams, the tune-up game was a welcome return to action. Just about every prep sports team in Western New York had been shut down for four days, so everyone on both sides were happy to put down the snow shovels and pick up the basketballs.
“My three kids are out here, my wife is here too; this is the first time we’ve been out,” Woods said. “We love each other but I wanted to be with my basketball family for a little bit. It was good for everybody.”
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