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ECHS downs NHS to open tourney

By By Scott Cooper
Special to The Advance
In the opening round of the T.R. Miller Holiday Invitational played Jan. 2 in Brewton, the Escambia County Blue Devils overcame a halftime deficit with a strong second-half performance that propelled them to a 70-53 win over the Northview Chiefs.
The Chiefs held the upper hand most of the way in the opening half, racing out to a 16-9 lead at the end of the first quarter and maintaining their advantage at 27-24 entering the halftime break.
In the third period of play, the two teams took turns making a run at the other.
Scoring the first four points of the quarter, the Blue Devils overtook the lead at 28-27 before stretching the margin to six, 41-35, with just over 3:00 left in the period.
Northview fought back to reclaim the lead at 44-41 on consecutive 3-point jumpers by Darryl Cohen before the Blue Devils' Kenneth Clark powered inside for a basket, and then completed a 3-point play from the foul line to knot the score at 44-44. Katral Johnson's baseline jumper at the quarter-ending buzzer gave the Blue Devils a 46-44 lead heading to the final stanza.
The first two minutes of the fourth period was nip-and-tuck, but then Escambia County got clutch performances down the stretch to gradually widen the lead.
Layton Knight's basket following a steal gave the Blue Devils a 56-50 lead before Jeremy McCants drove the lane for two points that padded the margin to 58-50 with 2:56 remaining in the game.
As the clock continued to tick down, the Blue Devils continued the final-quarter assault. Baskets by Clark and Johnson along with a game-ending dunk by Knight put an exclamation point on the 17-point win that allowed Escambia County (11-3) to advance to the second round in the winner's bracket.
Offensive leaders for the Blue Devils were Layton Knight, 21 points; Kenneth Clark, 16 points; Katral Johnson, 9 points and Jeremy McCants, 6 points.
Leaders for the Chiefs were Darryl Cohen and John Madison, with 30 and 7 points, respectively.