Jacob Evans carves niche at St. Michael _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN OUBRE -- St. Michael's Jacob Evans drives past Plaquemine's Keandre Randall on Tuesday night.

Before the arrival of Jacob Evans, the 30-year history of St. Michael the Archangel’s basketball program could be divided into two eras: Doug Annison and Titus Warmsley.

Annison, the school’s career scoring leader with 2,392 points, led the Warriors to their first district championship and initial trip to the Class 2A state quarterfinals.

Warmsley, who wound up with 1,919 points, helped up the ante four years later with a pair of district championships and consecutive state quarterfinal appearances in 1994-95.

Twenty years and two classifications later, the silky-smooth Evans, a 6-foot-6 multifaceted player, has come along and assembled a career worthy of such inclusion.

“When I got to high school, the game was faster, the windows were getting smaller,” Evans said. “I knew I wanted to play in college. I couldn’t just be a one-dimensional player. I had to learn everything.”

Evans wasn’t able to wrestle the school’s career scoring title away from Annison but wound up third with 1,786 points in three varsity seasons. He also didn’t match Warmsley’s run with multiple district crowns.

But Evans actually did one better than his distinguished predecessors, facilitating a process that resulted in St. Michael reaching the program’s second-highest victory total and first trip to the Class 4A state semifinals.

No. 10 St. Michael (27-6) meets No. 6 Landry-Walker (24-9) in Wednesday’s Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Boys Top 28 tournament at 8 p.m. at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.

“I wanted to get better each year,” said Evans, the team’s leader in points (25.1), rebounds (9.4) and assists (5.2). “Last year we talked about winning district and came up a little short. We came back hungry and fell short again. We decided if we couldn’t win (district) to try and make a run in the playoffs.”

With his college choice in place — he signed with Cincinnati in November — Evans dedicated himself to extending the careers of St. Michael’s senior class, starting with 21 points in a first-round 72-56 victory over Bolton.

A year after exiting the playoffs with a nine-point regional loss at St. Thomas More, Evans’ 27 points propelled the Warriors to a 49-40 second-round upset win at No. 7 Leesville, setting the stage for a memorable return home.

“He was way too unselfish earlier in his career,” St. Michael coach Drew Hart said. “There have been times I’ve challenged him to take over when some of the other guys are struggling. When he takes over, it raises their confidence level in the game.”

For the fourth time in school history, St. Michael was on the cusp of breaking through, trying to reach its first state semifinal and had No. 2 Peabody — one of the state’s tradition-rich programs — standing in their way.

Not only did Evans, who played primarily point guard, produce a double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds, but his next-level effort spurred a collective effort that sent St. Michael to a 58-45 triumph before a jam-packed crowd — many of whom spilled out onto the court in a massive postgame celebration.

“We took a huge step last Friday by being consistent the whole game,” Evans said. “We’ve been in some tight games, especially at home, but we didn’t always pull through. We felt we owed our fans because they’ve supported us for so long. It was the last home game for the seniors. We wanted to go out with a win.”

Hart said one look four years ago at Evans’ rangy build, strict work ethic and ability to listen to the program’s leaders made him a serious candidate to reach prominence.

Not only has he grown to equal his father’s 6-foot-6 stature but Evans, whose mother, Theresa, played point guard at Grambling, showed how much his leadership acumen rivaled his basketball skills after Friday’s quarterfinal win.

“We came in after the game and looked at each other and told coach we weren’t done yet,” Evans said. “We’re the first team to get to the semis, but we want to be the first team to win state and get a ring for this school.”