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Demetrius was buoyed by Stephenson's decision to pull out of their duel. In the car on the way to the game against the Saintz in Allenwood, N.J., he said, "If I was Lance, I wouldn't want to play me either. I'm killing people right now."
Keller had been told Evans might make a cameo for the Saintz, but Evans wasn't in the gym as Team Cal went through warmups or when Keller tabbed Roberto Nelson, Aaron Moore, G.J. Vilarino, Terran Carter and Rome Draper Jr. to start the game. Demetrius would not start, Keller explained, because his back was bothering him. Demetrius had shown no signs of an injury before the game and said nothing about it on the car ride to the gym. Most likely, Keller withheld him from the starting lineup to maximize the drama. Most of the 150 or so fans had come to see Demetrius. When he entered the game—a grand arrival all his own—they would sit up in their seats.
Evans arrived at the gym two minutes after the start. As he strolled down the baseline carrying a box of Reeboks under his arm, all eyes turned to him. People stopped following the action on the floor to watch Evans lace his shoes, and they eyed Keller for a sign that he was ready to unleash Demetrius. The Saintz had jumped out to a 9--0 lead, but that was preamble. The show wouldn't begin until the team's respective stars took the stage.
When Mats saw Evans enter the gym, he said incredulously, "Who is advising this kid? What does he have to gain playing down against Demetrius? If he dominates, well, he was supposed to, because he is older. But if Demetrius outplays him, he looks bad." It was similar to the advice Vaccaro had given the Stephensons. "Whoever is handling that kid is leaving money on the court."
Demetrius entered the game at the 16:28 mark. (The teams played two 20-minute halves, high school rules.) Evans waited another two minutes more before approaching the scorer's table. Everyone in the crowd expected them to square off immediately, but the first time Evans got the ball, he found Team Cal in a 2--3 zone. The Saintz had already made four consecutive three-pointers, and Keller should have gotten out of the zone long ago, but he stayed in it, with Demetrius down low.
Evans didn't stretch or touch a basketball before checking in, yet he casually netted a three-pointer from the right side to up the Saintz' lead to 19--7. He looked to Keller as if to say, I'll do that all day if you don't switch defenses. Keller ignored the challenge. He kept Team Cal in the zone, and the Saintz continued to bomb away from outside. Nasir Robinson made five three-pointers in the first half, and Evans connected on his three attempts, yet Keller refused to switch to man-to-man. It made sense to start the game in a zone, to negate the Saintz' size advantage and experience, but as the Boston lead passed 30, Keller's refusal to get out of it came across as an attempt to shield Demetrius from Evans.
On offense, when Demetrius got the ball on the wing with Evans guarding him, he instantly sent the ball back to G.J. at the point. Demetrius played so passively that it threw off his teammates. The offense had revolved around him for so long that when he refused to engage Evans, it stalled.
Robinson's final trey of the first half put the score at 53--17 with 3:14 left, and Keller—having endured shouts from the crowd, repeated looks from Evans and pleas from his players on the bench—finally pulled Team Cal out of the zone. Evans immediately demanded the ball and, after more than 10 minutes of courting a matchup with California's best, got the ball on the right wing with Demetrius between him and the basket.
Evans dribbled in place as Demetrius crouched low, his left hand raised toward Evans's face. Demetrius overplayed Evans slightly, urging him to go to his right. Evans had to decide between going where Demetrius anticipated, trusting that his speed would get him by, or tricking Demetrius by faking in that direction and then cutting back to the left. Pulling up for a three-pointer could be perceived as a concession that he couldn't get past Demetrius.
Evans elected to test Demetrius's quickness, and he broke to the right, exploding forward in a blur. Demetrius got in front of him, forcing Evans to change directions. He cut left, but as he dribbled the ball across his body, Demetrius knocked it loose with his left hand. It fell between them, and Demetrius dived to the ground and wrapped his arms around it at the same time that Evans grabbed it. The referee whistled a jump ball, and the possession arrow favored Team Cal. "That's right!" Demetrius shouted as Terran helped him up.