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ECHS splits first area games

By By Lori Dann
Advance Managing Editor
The first week of area competition left the Escambia County Blue Devils with one win and one loss. However, with both remaining area games at home and with all three area teams having identical 1-1 records, ECHS still controls its own destiny in its quest to host the area tournament.
The Blue Devils' area slate began with a disappointing 60-57 loss to Citronelle. The homestanding Wildcats led throughout the first half, holding a commanding 34-20 edge at the half. ECHS roared back in the second half, outscoring Citronelle 20-12 in the third quarter and eventually taking a five-point lead with three minutes left.
However, the Wildcats were able to win the game at the free throw line, hitting 21 of 31 free throws for the game, a number of them in the game's final minutes. ECHS went to the line just 11 times and made seven.
The Blue Devils actually finished with seven more field goals than Citronelle (25 to 18), outrebounded them 34-29 and shot a better percentage from the field (48 percent to 42 percent), but it wasn't enough to make up the difference at the free throw line.
ECHS utilized a balanced offensive attack, led by Terrell McNeil's 14 points and six rebounds, Barrett Finney's 12 points and 11 rebounds and Terrence McNeil's 11 points and six rebounds.
Finney continues to play a major role in ECHS' success, despite being just a sophomore.
Also scoring in the game for ECHS were Anthony McCants with six points and seven rebounds, Ricky Craft with four points, Damien Robinson with three and Steven Moore with two.
Following the Citronelle loss, ECHS responded with a strong performance at Jackson, shooting a blistering 57 percent from the field as a team and forcing the Aggies into 28 turnovers in a 62-50 win. The Blue Devil offense committed just 13 turnovers.
ECHS controlled the game from the start, outscoring Jackson 15-10 in the first quarter and 12-9 in the second for a 27-19 halftime advantage. Jackson closed the gap to 41-38 at the end of the third quarter before the Blue Devils closed the game with a 21-12 run.
Free throws were the big key down the stretch as ECHS nailed 11 of 13 attempts over the final eight minutes when Jackson resorted to intentional fouls. Terrell McNeil went 6-for-6 from the line in the final period and was a perfect 12-for-12 for the night to finish with 16 points, and he also pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
But the biggest surprise of the night came from junior Anthony McCants, who posted a career-high 18 points and five rebounds to lead all scorers.
Rounding out the scoring for ECHS were Terrence McNeil with 10 points, Finney with nine points and six rebounds and Craft with nine points.
ECHS improved to 7-2 heading into the Fairhope Christmas Tournament this weekend. The Blue Devils were scheduled to face host Fairhope in the first round.
The Blue Devils' home game with Hillcrest, originally scheduled for Tuesday, has been postponed until Feb. 5.