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Shirley, Hayles help EA roll past Sparta

By By Lori Dann
The Escambia Academy Cougars were struggling.
And they were playing without one of their starters, Justin Beasley, who was in Selma competing in the AISA All-Star Football Game.
However, buoyed by strong play from freshman Justin Shirley and senior reserve Russ Hayles, the Cougars broke out of their slump last Thursday with an 86-63 win at Sparta Academy.
Shirley, whom EA head coach Chad Prewett said has immense talent but lacks game experience, came through wth a career high 17 points and eight rebounds in the win. Hayles, playing for Beasley, added 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting from the field.
The Cougars raced to an early 22-8 lead in the game and held a commanding 51-30 advantage at halftime. They continued to extend their lead in the second half, holding a 73-44 edge at the end of the third quarter before Prewett began emptying the bench.
Ben Hardy and Mark Hall rounded out the double-figure scorers with 13 points each. Josh Lilly added nine points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and four steals. David Alaniz and Clay Corman had seven points each, Josh Hosking had four and Josh Vanlandingham and Jonathan Jay added one each.
That win followed a disappointing 65-54 loss to Faith Academy last Tuesday in the first game played in EA's new gym. The Cougars fell behind 20-8 in the first period and trailed 32-15 at the half. The lead stayed in double digits in the second half.
Lilly led the Cougars with 21 points and nine steals, followed by Hall with 12 points and seven board. Beasley was EA's top rebounder with 11 board to go along with eight points.
Also scoring in the game were Shirley with six points, Hardy with four, Josh Davis with two and Alaniz with one.
EA was 3-4 heading into Tuesday's game at Crenshaw Academy. The Cougars will host Demoplos Friday night. The game will include an official ceremony for the opening of the school's new gym.