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Late rally gives Faith win over Lady Cougars

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP
Advance Managing Editor
Three more points.
That was all the Escambia Academy Lady Cougars needed to claim the United Bank New Year's Classic that they hosted last weekend. Instead, Faith Academy came back after trailing most of the game to claim the championship and remain a thorn in the side of the EA team.
Getting into the championship game proved much easier than actually winning it.
In their first contest of the tourney, the Lady Cougars pounded Coosa Valley Academy, 62-25.
The Lady Cougars out-hustled and out-manned their Coosa Valley counterparts as they cruised to the easy victory.
The game was out of reach for Coosa Valley from the very beginning as the Lady Cougars jumped out to a 24-5 lead after only one period. EA slowed down offensively in the second period, but still allowed CVA only five points to take a 32-10 lead into halftime.
The lead only grew for the Lady Cougars as they built a 50-17 lead in the third.
Leading scorers for Escambia Academy were Jessica Gibbs with 13, Holly Mack with 11 and Jennifer Martin with 10.
The win set up another showdown between the states topped-ranked 1A-3A squad, Faith Academy. Faith, a 3A school, had beaten the Lady Cougars, the state's third-ranked team, twice prior to the tournament championship game.
Not only had Faith beaten the Lady Cougars twice, but they have also beaten everyone else, coming into the contest riding a 24-game winning streak.
That winning streak almost came to an end as the Lady Cougars led their opponents throughout the contest. Faith took their first lead with only a minute and a half to go in the game.
Fouls cost the Lady Cougars as three of their starters fouled out and were forced to watch the final minutes of the game from the bench.
EA jumped on top of Faith early as they took a 10-4 lead after one period. They continued to hold the edge by outscoring Faith 13-11 for a 23-15 halftime lead.
But, Faith would not let the Lady Cougars open up their lead and they cut the deficit in the third to only two points, 31-29.
Then, as EA's starters began to foul out, Faith began to make their move. With 1:30 to go, they took their first lead and were able to hold on for the tournament championship.
Head coach Chad Pruett said his bench players did an outstanding job
when they were called upon to replace the fouled-out starters. But, he admits that the Lady Cougars needed the big-game experience that his starters have.
Leading scorers for the Lady Cougars were Gibbs with 13 points, Mack and Jennifer Martin finished with 12 points each.
Gibbs also led the team with 14 rebounds.
The third loss to Faith Academy was a disappointment for EA, but Pruett said his team should be proud of their performance.
For the tournament, Faith claimed the championship while EA had to settle for second place. Autauga finished in third by defeating Coosa Valley in a consolation game.
EA's Ashley Helton, a junior point guard, and Martin, a junior post player, made the All-Tournament Team.
The Lady Cougars will host Crenshaw Christian Academy Friday night in an important area contest.
The girls' record now stands at 12-4 and has a 1-0 record in area play.