Evangel crashes the block party


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DALE CITY — It’s not the rivalry it used to be, but the Evangel Christian girls basketball team still considers it a big deal to play Heritage Christian.

The way point guard Terri Slade explains it, the neighborhood is big enough for both programs. The Eagles just prefer to be No. 1.

“We’ve known each other for so long,” Slade said. “When they were better it was more of a rivalry, but we still want to beat them.”

The same is true in volleyball. The Eagles own bragging rights in that sport, too.

That’s partly because many of the same players who led Evangel to two straight Old Dominion Association of Church Schools state volleyball championships were sporting green Eagles uniforms on Thursday night, including Slade and junior center Katie Oakes, who combined for 32 points in a 61-31 victory.

“Our confidence has risen from working together and being around each other so much,” Slade said.

A 14-1 record is a huge motivator, too.

With three starters averaging double figures and enough depth to run and press to their hearts’ content, the Eagles are on pace to finish the season with 20-plus victories for the second time in three years. They picked up their seventh straight win last night behind a 21-point, 14-rebound, 6-block performance from Oakes, a career-high 19 points from sophomore guard Ashleey Stevens and 11 points and five steals from Slade.

Evangel used a full-court press to open up a 25-4 first-quarter lead and wound up utilizing the talents of 11 players to defeat Heritage for the second time this season.

“We generally have a little more speed than most teams and this year we have a fairly decent bench which allows us to [press] a little longer and a little better,” Evangel Christian coach Greg Lambert said.

“When we start the game with a press we start with confidence,” Slade concurred. “It gives us an early lead and let’s us make it our game. Sometimes we get hustle fouls, but if we didn’t have that effort you wouldn’t see all those points on the scoreboard.”

Stevens, a first-year starter, surpassed her season average with 11 points in the first eight minutes. She had 17 at halftime as the Eagles opened up a 39-12 cushion.

Despite 11-point efforts from Heritage guards Danielle Kearney and Laura Kosa, the Patriots fell to 4-9 overall.

The game closely resembled Evangel’s 54-28 victory on Dec. 9. Slade, Oakes, Danni Howe and Stevens combined for 19 steals, while freshman guard Erin Nuckols added four points and four rebounds.

Oakes has averaged double figures in points and rebounds since her freshman season, when she helped the Staci Lingo-led Eagles post a 21-4 record. With last night’s effort, Oakes has five outings with 20 or more points this winter.

“She was very good last year and she’s improved greatly with her presence around the basket,” Lambert said of his third-year star. “She’s become more aggressive. Most of the time it’s difficult for the other team to stop her.”

Oakes, who averages a team-high 16.3 points per game, accounted for 10 of Evangel’s 27 field goals. Many of those followed offensive rebounds or entry passes from either Slade or Nuckols.

“Terri’s been a big part of my game and Erin Nuckols, too. Without a good point guard, a center can’t really do anything,” Oakes said. “With Terri’s passes and Erin’s drives to the basket we’ve been hard to stop this year.”

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