• 79°

Blue Devil's drop heartbreaker in title game

By By James Crawford
News Editor
In a contest that went back and forth throughout, the hosting T.R. Miller Tigers managed to pull out a win against Escambia County's Blue Devils in the last few seconds of a torrid battle of high-flying jumps and power passes.
In the end, some last-second heroics handed Miller a 47-46 win and the championship of the Escambia County Boys Basketball Tournament Saturday night.
The Tigers took the ball on the opening jump off and took it to the hoop to start a drive that would last the first half of the opening quarter. The Blue Devils regained their composure and battled back to cut Miller's lead to just three halfway in. Miller came back with a lay-up inthe last minute after Escambia stepped out of bounds and turned the ball over.
Escambia responded with a steal but passed it away on a miscue. Miller, refusing to play against Escambia's zone defense, held the ball as the clock ran out. Play resumed in the final seconds with Miller's Greg Bogan good for three at the buzzer to round out the first quarter of play.
The second quarter began in Escambia's favor with Layton Knight dropping in three from the top of the circle to start off the play just barely after the clock started. Knight again took the offensive halfway through the second quarter, adding two points to give the Blue Devils their first lead of the game.
Miller battled back, taking the lead back by a hair, but Knight was good for two more with 2:50 left in the second to inch within one point of Miller at 30-29. With the clock running out, Miller again refused to play Escambia's zone defense and held the ball until the buzzer sounded.
Knight started off the third quarter securing the lead for the Blue Devils by depositing a three-pointer and was backed up by Jeremy McCants with two to secure the lead. The Tigers regrouped and came back with Ryheem Drakeford hitting for two at the buzzer to even the score to 38-38 at the end of the third.
Miller's Neal Cheatham was good for two at the start of the fourth to take the lead and hit one from the line after drawing a foul to edge Escambia by three with seven minutes left to play. Escambia's Kenneth Clark dropped in two to make it a one-point game before Miller once again held the ball in defiance of the Blue Devils zone defense, this time for more than a minute.
As the clock ran down, Escambia was forced to switch to man-to-man to get the ball moving, forcing Miller's Cheatham to make a bad pass and Escambia's Willie Knight took advantage of it to hit for two and take the lead to 42-41 in Escambia's favor with 3:50 left in the fourth.
Escambia added a couple of baskets to their lead but Miller answered them and Cheatham dropped in two to make it a one-point game in the final minutes. Escambia's Knight drew a foul and added one at the line to make it a three-point game with just over two minutes left.
Miller's Drakeford was good for one at the line to inch it up to a two-point game. Escambia's Jeremy McCants made a fatal error with an errant pass that gave the ball back to Miller with 1:40 left in the fourth.
Miller held the ball for more than 20 seconds until Escambia stepped up to greet them. Miller's Dawaun Johnson hit two and made it a tied ballgame with 46 seconds left to play. After back to back time outs from Escambia and Miller, Miller's Began stole the ball and drew a foul with just over three seconds to play.
With the ballgame tied, Began dropped in one from the line for the lead and Miller took a timeout. In an odd twist of fate, the clock was adjusted by the referees back to 5.6 seconds, adding fuel to the fire. After the huddle, Escambia drew a foul on Miller's Trey Paul and with just over two seconds left took a time.
The Blue Devils set up to toss the ball in and Miller took an immediate timeout. When play resumed, Escambia's Layton Knight took a shot but it just missed the rim as the buzzer sounded, ending the contest with Miller up by one point at 47-46.
"We've worked real hard for three years and finally came together as a team. The second half it picked up a bit. We shot and ran good in the first half," T.R. Miller Tigers Head Coach Rob Atkinson said. "Greg Bogan did a great job to steal the ball for us there at the end. Atmore is an outstanding team and they played outstanding tonight."
"It was a heart breaker. We had a lot of opportunity but didn't take advantage of it. We didn't hit several free throws that we should have. But, I have to give it to the kids. They played their hearts out for and you can't ask any more of them than that," Escambia Blue Devils Head Coach Brent Orso said. "The sun will rise tomorrow. We just have to get better."
Escambia finished the tournament at 2-1, beating W.S. Neal 78-40 and Flomaton 67-45. Willie Knight topped out with 15 points, Layton Knight added 12 points and Kenneth Clark finished the night with nine points.