Holiday Invitational

Evans, Wells to lead Apex into Holiday Invitational

Posted December 10, 2013

 T. J. Evans (3) gets by Miller's Isaac Copeland (11). Miller School held on to defeat Apex 60-58 in the fifth place Randolph bracket  game of the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational, December 29, 2012.

Over the last two years, Apex High School’s boy’s basketball team has won 46 basketball games, and a lot of that success can be attributed to two senior guards.

T.J. Evans and T.J. Wells, both members of the Class of 2014, led Apex to back-to-back Tri-9 Conference championships the last two seasons.

“I think expectations are high because those two seniors are coming back,” Apex coach David Neal said. “Everybody is very, very excited, and rightfully so. We’ve got a lot of the same guys coming back from a team last year that won 20 games.”

Apex’s season ended last year in the third round of the state playoffs when the Cougars fell to Cap 8 Conference champion and eventual state runner-up Broughton, 50-42.

“I thought we were good enough to beat Broughton in the third round. We were in control of that basketball game and the fourth quarter got away from us,” said Neal.

Apex led Broughton 37-30 after the third quarter, but in the fourth quarter, the Cougars lost eight steals to the Caps and were outscored 20-5.

“Broughton played for the state championship last year and we were right there with them. We’ve got almost everybody back from that team,” Neal said. “Everybody is serious about making a playoff run. I thought we were good enough last year to win it, and we came up short in the third round.”

Apex participated in the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational last year, and he said he thinks the tournament helped the Cougars prepare for a postseason run.

After opening the tournament with a 58-47 loss to Word of God, Apex defeated Clinton in an elimination game, 56-34. The fifth place game was against Miller School (VA), a team that Neal said “was loaded with talent.”

“I look back on that game, and I feel like we got our confidence against Miller, even though we ended up losing that game,” said Neal.

Evans scored 24 points against Miller School, Malik Williams added 17, and Ian Boyd, who was a freshman last year, added 13 points. All three players are back this season.

“We fought like crazy, and it gave us a huge boost going into January. When you play big competition like that, it can’t do anything but help you get ready,” said Neal.

The coach hopes this year’s Holiday Invitational will help Apex make an even deeper run in the playoffs.

“It’s such an honor to play in that tournament, just because it’s the biggest high school basketball tournament in the country,” he said. “To be asked to play in it, we’re really excited. We’ve played well in it in years past.”

This season will mark the 11th appearance in the tournament for the Cougars, and the fifth time Neal has coached an Apex team in the event in his 11 years at the school.

Follow Nick Stevens on Twitter @NickStevensHSOT

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