ECHS moves on to regionalsPublished 8:03pm Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Escambia County High School basketball coach Earlando Courtney had designs on changing up the defensive game plan against Monroe County after the Tigers beat them twice previously this season.
But since starting 3-5 this year, the Blue Devils have won 16 of their last 18 games and seem to be peaking at the right time. Making the coach’s decision to change his scheme an easy one.
“I woke up at 2:45 in the morning and was like ‘forget that,’” Courtney said. “There’s no need to change what we’ve been doing. You take out only what’s not working.”
The early morning decision paid off for ECHS as they won 87-68 Friday night to advance to the 4A regional tournament in Dothan.
The game was close in the first half with ECHS leading 35-31 at halftime, but Courtney credited a preseason conditioning program and a pressure defense as the reason the Blue Devils were able to pull away in the second half.
“Our conditioning and stamina is superior to other teams,” he said. “It’s a testament to our players and how hard they’ve worked.”
ECHS took an early lead as Sophomore Malik McMillan scored the team’s first two buckets with 6:23 left in the first quarter. Made free throws by Fred Knight helped the Blue Devils regain the lead at 7-6.
The game went back and forth until the Tigers took a 13-9 lead on a steal and bucket with three minutes left. They increased the lead to 17-9 in the midst of an 8-0 run with 2:09 left.
Knight brought the score within two at 17-15 with a three-pointer with 46 ticks left in first quarter. Knight hit another three from close to midcourt as time expired, but Monroe County led 22-18 at the end of the quarter.
The game opened with the teams trading makes before Knight and Desmond Williams hit consecutive buckets to bring the score within one at 27-26.
ECHS regained the lead with a shot by Tony McAroy III to make it 30-29 with 1:44 left. Tyrell Ford increased the lead with a shot that made the score 32-29. The Blue Devils took a 35-31 lead into the half.
Knight extended the Blue Devil lead, hitting two free throws to open the scoring in the third quarter. ECHS took a 41-35 lead after Williams hit two buckets with 5:48 left.
The Tigers tied the game at 41 all with 3:52 left in the third quarter. Williams was fouled during the Blue Devils’ next possession, missed both free throws, but got his own rebound and hit a shot to give ECHS a 43-41 lead.
The teams traded buckets again until ECHS took a 49-46 lead with 36.8 seconds left. A bucket by Darius McCarthy gave ECHS a 51-50 lead at the end of the quarter.
The Blue Devils increased their lead to 59-50 on free throws by Knight and McCarthy and buckets by Williams and McCarthy.
A three-point play by Williams put the Blue Devils on an 11-0 run to increase the lead to 62-50 with 5:25 left. Knight hit four consecutive shots to increase the lead to 70-50 with 4:22 left.
ECHS increased the lead to 77-54 with shots by Ford, McAroy, Knight and Williams with three minutes left in the game. Ford then hit two free throws to increase it again to 79-56.
The Blue Devils took an 85-63 lead on free throws by Williams and shots by Ford and McAroy.
Knight led the team in scoring with 26 points. Williams followed with 23, while McAroy had 11. Ford and McMillan each had 10 points in the win and McCarthy added six.
The Blue Devils will take on Charles Henderson at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.