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Devils slip against Blount; await final area outcome

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP
Advance Managing Editor
The Escambia County High Blue Devils traveled to Blount High School Saturday night with the chance to claim the best area record of the regular season and to serve as the host team of the area tournament in two weeks. But, Blount High School had another scenario in mind as they rolled to a 71-56 victory.
With one win already under their belts against the defending area champs, the Blue Devils needed another area win to secure their spot atop the area standings. With the loss, the players were forced to wait until Blount and Robertsdale played their final area game of the season on Tuesday, Jan. 30. If Blount wins the game, they will win the area outright; however, if Robertsdale pulls out the victory, it will create a three-way tie (Blount, Robertsdale and ECHS) and the tournament host will be determined by a coin flip.
The Devils knew that beating Blount at home was not the same as traveling and playing them on their own court.
Blount, which is ranked third in the state among 5A schools, jumped out to a big lead as their defense forced the Devils to turn the ball over. Escambia County came away from the first period with only five points, giving Blount a 15-5 lead heading into the second period.
But, the Devils began to warm up in the second as they came away with 22 points in the period. However, they gave up 24 as Blount took a 12-point lead, 39-27, into halftime.
Blount continued to pull away from the Devils in a low scoring third period. They outscored ECHS 14-10 to take a 53-37 lead into the final period.
The Devils created a good offensive run in the fourth period as they finished the period with 19 points. But, Blount was always there to answer as they came away with 18 points in the period to lock away the victory, 71-56.
Statistically, the Devils played very close with Blount, except for in the area of free throws where the Devils struggled. While Blount hit 21 of 23 from the free throw line, the Devils were only 11 of 27.
Leading scorers for the Devils were Ricky Craft with 14, Sharrel Johnson with 13 and Barrett Finney with 11.
The loss dropped the Devils to 4-2 in the area and 17-8 overall.
Zarahn said the Devils would be big Robertsdale fans as they take on Blount for the deciding game.
If Blount should win the contest, ECHS would complete the regular season in second place among area teams.
The Devils enter the final week of the regular season with four games to go. They hosted T.R. Miller last night, will travel to W.S. Neal on Friday and Frisco City on Tuesday, Feb. 6. The biggest game left on the schedule will be Saturday night, Feb. 3, as the Devils host Clarke County, the third-ranked 4A school in the state.
Another reason that Saturday night's game is big for ECHS is that it will be senior night. Senior basketball players from the boys' and girls' team and senior cheerleaders will be honored in a special ceremony between the girls' and boys' games.
The area tournament is set to begin on Feb. 10.